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This book is dedicated to the many past and future erosion and

sediment control specialists, and to our families:

REP: Kathryn
SC: My parents
DL: Patricia
Table of Contents

Foreward vii


PROBLEMS AND REGULATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 1
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 17
Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 27
Example Construction Site Erosion Control and Stormwater
Management Requirements 37
Need for Adequate Design and Inspection 41
Important Internet Links 44
References 45
Problems 45
Appendix 1A State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater 46

CHAPTER 2: SELECTION OF CONTROLS AND SITE PLANNING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Introduction 51
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 51
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 65
Amounts of Construction Activity Subject to Erosion and
Sediment Control and Their Costs 78
References 86
Problems 86
Important Internet Links 87
Appendix 2A Costs of Control Options at Construction Sites 92


CONSTRUCTION SITE EROSION EVALUATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99
Introduction: Hydrology for the Design of Construction Erosion Controls 99
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion
and Sediment Control Design 101
Methods of Determining Runoff 110
Watershed Delineation 111
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 116
WinTR-55 135
Summary 146
Important Internet Links 146
References 146
Problems 147
Appendix 3A Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges 150
Appendix 3B Rainfall Distribution for the U.S. 170

vi Table of Contents


EQUATION (RUSLE), AND VEGETATION EROSION CONTROLS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
Introduction 175
Basic Erosion Mechanisms and Rain Energy 175
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 175
RUSLE2 Information 192
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 195
Establishing Vegetation 216
Summary 221
Important Internet Links 221
Problems 222
References 222
Appendix 4A Erosivity Indices by Location and Erosion Variations by Season 223


EROSION CONTROL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229
Introduction 229
General Channel Stability Shear Stress Relationship 229
Design of Grass-Lined Channels 238
Drainage Design Using Turf-Reinforcing Mats 246
Channel Design Using Concrete and Riprap Liner Materials 254
Slope Stability Applied to Construction Site Erosion Control Design 263
Use of Newly Developed Erosion Controls 271
Summary 273
Internet Sources 273
Problems 278
References 278
Appendix 5A Commercial Sources for Channel Liners 279
Appendix 5B Kansas Department of Transportation Bureau of Materials and Research 280


CONSTRUCTION SITE SEDIMENT CONTROL. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .285
Introduction 285
Sediment Pond Design Fundamentals 291
Filter Fences for Construction Site Sediment Control 324
Conclusions 344
Problems 344
References 345


INTERNET SOURCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .347
Internet Sources 347
Abstracts for Selected References 350
References 370

Index 377

About the Authors 381


Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Controls: resulting site hydrology conditions. Examples are given
Planning, Design, and Performance, has been a work in describing the appropriate selection of critical rains for the
progress for many years. Portions of the text have been used design of controls, considering varying levels of risk.
during advanced undergraduate and graduate classes on Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) site
construction site erosion and sediment control at the hydrology methods are described in detail, including many
University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of examples using the newest version of WinTR-55 to calculate
Alabama, and at Penn State, Harrisburg, and at many short the multiple variables of construction site hydrology needed
courses and workshops throughout the country. The final for different steps in construction site erosion control
development of the text was made possible through partial planning and sediment device design. Chapter 4 presents
support from the University Transportation Center of detailed descriptions for the use of the Revised Universal
Alabama, and our respective departments. This support and Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) to predict the benefits of the
the many helpful comments from students and colleagues are many erosion control options based on local soil and
greatly acknowledged. vegetation conditions. Example design guidelines for
The purpose of this book is to supplement, certainly not different vegetative controls are also given, and the new
replace, the numerous state, regional, and local guidelines RUSLE2 modeling tools are described.
available on the use of construction site erosion and sediment Quantifiable construction site erosion controls are
controls. The book provides background on regulations and discussed in Chapter 5, which covers channel and slope
problems caused by construction site runoff in Chapter 1. designs for stability. Much of the basic information
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S.
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Department of Agriculture on these topics is summarized
stormwater regulations pertaining to construction site runoff and modified to be applicable to the scale of construction
are described in detail, stressing Phase II of this program, sites in this chapter. Traditional, along with emerging,
which affects all urbanized areas of the country and most approaches for channel and slope stability are discussed,
construction sites. Basic approaches to the control of including summaries for the selection of appropriate grasses
construction site erosion are outlined. Much of this material for different areas of the country, and the selection of turf
is summarized from official Federal Register mats and other flexible reinforcing materials that are used
announcements and relevant EPA publications. Chapter 2 along with vegetation. Descriptions for a selection of these
goes into more detail on the selection of control practices and materials are provided, along with many examples on how
important site planning issues. The basic tenets of prevention channels and slopes can be designed in conjunction with
(erosion control) are stressed, while supplemental treatment these materials.
technologies (sediment control) are also addressed. Different Chapter 6 analyzes the use of temporary sediment ponds
checklists of needed components of an effective erosion and filter fences, and related sediment control devices, at
control plan are presented, along with discussions of construction sites. Pond design fundamentals are reviewed
minimum standards for several states. Summaries of major and many examples are provided showing how ponds can be
components of most states’ guidelines, along with Internet sized for specific performance objectives. Emerging
links to their erosion control manuals, are also given. The technologies, such as chemical-assisted settling, are also
costs of construction site erosion and sediment controls are described in case studies. Filter fence design and
also presented in Chapter 2. performance expectations are presented.
Local site conditions are the foundation of the factors Chapter 7 is a compilation of historical and new sources of
affecting the selection, design, and performance of information pertaining to the growing field of construction
construction site erosion and sediment controls. Chapter 3 site erosion and sediment control.
discusses the most important site factors: rainfall and This book is unique in that it covers the basic background

viii Foreword

and history of problems associated with construction site They take care not to trespass or endanger themselves or the
runoff and the theoretical and practical aspects of control, workers during the project. In addition, they are requested to
stressing an engineering approach for the design of many ask for a copy of the site construction erosion and sediment
types of planning and control options. Specifically, this book control plan. The site contractor usually makes a copy for the
shows through many examples and case studies, how the students, or the students may need to obtain a copy from the
different aspects of an effective construction site erosion and local regulatory authority. The students are instructed to visit
sediment control plan can be developed with cooperative the site about once a week during the term and keep a diary
elements that consider important site conditions and describing the site conditions (construction phase, work
restraints. activity, site-control status, needed or recent maintenance,
Early versions of this book have been used as a text with and any erosion problems observed). They also try to visit
students. All of the subject matter in these pages can be the site soon after any major rains. Near the end of the term,
covered in a typical 3-unit course devoted to understanding the students are required to prepare an erosion control plan
and preventing site erosion. The authors typically assign a for the site. The report should reflect several different
major project for the students. During the first week of class, construction phases. The students make oral presentations
the students are required to select a local and convenient and submit reports on their sites at the mid-term and
construction site, which they must visit often during the term. during the final. This project has been an important part
(When the course is offered during an accelerated term, the of the course and offers students the chance to work on
use of the site-visit project can suffer, unless a nearby real-world problems. Often, students in classes taught by
construction area undergoing rapid changes can be found.) A the authors have been employed by local site-
longer 12-to-14 week term usually works best, but a shorter development firms. In such instances, they used one of their
term is certainly feasible, especially in communities own company’s sites for the class project, which adds a
experiencing growth. The students are to introduce greater perspective to the assignment and benefits the whole
themselves to the site foreman and describe the class project. class.

Introduction to Erosion and Sediment Control,

Problems and Regulations

PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH CONSTRUCTION some of the highest erosion rates in the U.S. because of its
SITE EROSION AND SEDIMENT LOSS combination of very high energy rains, moderately to
severely erosive soils, and steep slopes. The typically high
Observed Erosion Rates from Construction Sites erosion rates mean that even a small construction project
may have a significant detrimental effect on local water
Pbeen knownassociated
ROBLEMS with construction site runoff have
for many years. More than 25 years ago, Extensive evaluations of urban construction site runoff
Willett (1980; Virginia 1980) estimated that approximately problems have been conducted in Wisconsin for many years.
five billion tons of sediment reached U.S. surface waters Data from the highly urbanized Menomonee River
annually, of which 30 percent was generated by natural watershed in southeastern Wisconsin illustrate the impact of
processes and 70 percent by human activities. Half of this 70 construction site erosion on water quality. These data
percent is attributed to eroding croplands. Although urban indicate that construction sites had much greater potentials
construction accounted for only ten percent of this total, this for generating sediment and phosphorus than did areas in
amount equaled the combined contributions of forestry, other land uses (Chesters, et al. 1979). For example,
mining, industrial, and commercial activities. While construction sites can generate approximately 8 times more
construction occurred on only about 0.007 percent of U.S. sediment and 18 times more phosphorus than industrial sites,
land in the 1970s, it accounted for approximately ten percent the land use that contributes the second highest amount of
of the sediment load to all U.S. surface waters (Willett 1980), these pollutants, and 25 times more sediment and
and the vast majority of the sediment load to urban streams. phosphorus than row crops. In fact, construction sites
Increased development in many areas of the U.S. in recent contributed more sediment and phosphorus to the
years has only served to increase the need for construction Menomonee River than any other land use, although in 1979,
site erosion controls. Developed in response to the increased construction comprised only 3.3 percent of the watershed’s
awareness of these problems and to the public’s demand that total land area. During this early study, construction sites
they be reduced, the EPA’s Stormwater Permit Program were found to contribute about 50 percent of the suspended
includes regulations for the control of construction site sediment and total phosphorus loading at the river mouth
erosion discharges. This chapter summarizes these emerging (Novotny, et al. 1979).
regulations and includes an appendix describing example Similar conclusions were reported by the Southeastern
regulation specifications for many areas in the country. Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in a 1978
Construction accounts for a much greater proportion of modeling study of the relative pollutant contributions of 17
the sediment load in urban areas than it does in the nation as a categories of point and nonpoint pollution sources to 14
whole. Urban areas experience large sediment loads from watersheds in the southeast Wisconsin regional planning
construction site erosion because construction sites have area (SEWRPC 1978). This study revealed construction as
extremely high erosion rates and because urban construction the first or second largest contributor of sediment and
sites are efficiently drained by stormwater drainage systems phosphorus in 12 of the 14 watersheds. Although
installed early during the construction activities. construction occupied only two percent of the region’s total
Construction sites have measured erosion rates of land area in 1978, it contributed approximately 36 percent of
approximately 20 to 200 tons per acre per year, a rate that is the sediment and 28 percent of the total phosphorus load to
about 3 to 100 times that of croplands. Construction site inland waters, making construction the region’s second
erosion losses vary greatly throughout the nation, depending largest source of sediment and phosphorus. The largest
on local rain, soil, topographic, and management conditions. source of sediment was estimated to be cropland; livestock
As an example, the Birmingham, Alabama, area may have operations were estimated to be the largest source of


phosphorus. By comparison, cropland comprised 72 percent

of the region’s land area and contributed about 45 percent of
the sediment and only 11 percent of the phosphorus to
regional watersheds. This early study again pointed out the
high pollution-generating ability of construction sites and the
significant water quality impact a small amount of
construction may have on a watershed.
Another early monitoring study of construction site runoff
water quality in the Village of Germantown (Washington
County, Wisconsin) yielded similar results (Madison, et al.
1979). Several large subdivisions under construction with
single and multi-family residences were selected for runoff
monitoring. All utility construction, including the storm
drainage system and streets, was completed before
monitoring began. Analysis of the monitoring data showed
that sediment leaving the developing subdivisions averaged Figure 1.1. Soil Delivery to Streams.
about 25 to 30 tons per acre per year (Madison, et al. 1979).
Construction practices identified as contributing to these
high yields included the following: sediment from construction areas (Sources of Sediment in
Milwaukee River, WI DNR). For example, based on the
• Removing surface vegetation; calculations below assuming 4% delivery efficiency for
• Stripping and stockpiling topsoil; agriculture and 100% efficiency for construction, the
• Placing large, highly erodible mounds of excavated soil construction activities, while occupying far less land,
on and near the streets; generates more sediment.
• Pumping water from flooded basement excavations;
Agricultural Field (assuming 4% efficiency of sediment
delivery due to buffer zones, rough surfaces, flat surfaces
• Tracking of mud in the streets by construction vehicles.
with sedimentation depressions)
If the amount of sediment leaving the site during utility (10 tons/ac/yr) (4%) = 0.4 tons/ac/yr
development had been added in, the total amount of eroded
sediment leaving the site would have been substantially Construction Site (assuming 100% efficiency of sediment
greater. Analysis of the Germantown data also showed that delivery due to the direct connection between the
the amount of sediment leaving areas undergoing construction area and the drainage system)
development was a function of the extent of development
and was independent of the type of development. Almost all (20 tons/ac/yr) (100%) = 20 tons/ac/yr
eroded sediment from the Germantown construction areas
entered the receiving waters. The delivery of sediment to the
receiving waters was nearly 100 percent when ten percent or
more of the watershed was experiencing development. The
smallest delivery value obtained during the Germantown
monitoring was 50 percent, observed when only five percent
of the watershed was undergoing development. These high
delivery values occurred (even during periods with small
amounts of development) because storm drainage systems,
which efficiently transport water and its sediment load, had
been installed during an early stage of development. When
looking at the Milwaukee River as a whole, the
highly-efficiency delivery system installed during urban
land development ensures that construction is a major
sediment contributor, even though the amount of land under
active construction is very low (Figure 1.1).
A comparison of the contributions of agriculture and
construction indicates that the low delivery of sediment from
agricultural areas contrasted with very high deliveries from High sediment discharges from Inner to Outer Harbor in Milwaukee (WI)
construction sites results in much greater unit area yields of during heavy rains (WI DNR).
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 3

Why Construction Site Erosion Rates are Alabama, the months having the greatest erosion potential
Comparatively High in the Piedmont and are February and March, while September through
Appalachian Plateaus of the Southeastern November have the lowest erosion potential in Alabama.
Region of the U.S. Nelson (1996) monitored sediment quantity and particle size
from 70 construction site runoff samples from the
Local Birmingham, AL, erosion rates from construction Birmingham area. He measured suspended solids
sites can be ten times the erosion rates from row crops and concentrations ranging from 100 to more than 25,000 mg/L
one hundred times the erosion rates from forests or pastures (overall median about 4,000 mg/L), while the turbidity
(Nelson 1996). The site specific factors affecting values ranged from about 300 to >50,000 NTU (average of
construction site erosion in the Birmingham, Alabama, area about 4,000 NTU). About 90% of the particles (by mass)
include the following: were smaller than about 20 µm (0.02 mm) in diameter, with

the median size being about 5 µm (0.005 mm). Local
Rainfall Energy (Alabama has the highest in the
construction site erosion discharges were estimated to be

approximately 100 tons/acre/year. Table 1.1 summarizes the
Soil Erodibility (northern part of the state has fine
measured suspended solids and median particle sizes as a
grained, highly erosive soils)

function of rain intensity for this study. High intensity rains
Site Topography (northeastern part of the state has
were found to have the most severe erosion discharges, as
steep hills under development)

expected, with much higher suspended solids
Surface Cover (usually totally removed during initial
concentrations, compared to lower intensity rains. The
site grading on hilly construction sites)
typically small sizes of the erosion particulates make it very
Rainfall energy is directly related to rainfall intensity, and difficult to remove these particulates from the runoff water
the USLE (Universal Soil Loss Equation, described in after they have been eroded from the site. The extreme
Chapter 4) rainfall erosion index varies from 250 to 550+ for turbidity values also cause very high in-stream turbidity
Alabama (most of the state is about 350), which is the highest conditions in local receiving waters for great distances
in the U.S. Based on the rainfall energy distribution for downstream of eroding sites.

TABLE 1.1. Birmingham Construction Site Erosion Runoff Characteristics (Nelson 1996).
Low Intensity Rains Moderate Intensity Rains High Intensity Rains
(<0.25 in/hr) (about 0.25 in/hr) (>1 in/hr)
Suspended solids, mg/L 400 2,000 25,000
Particle size (median), µm 3.5 5 8.5

Receiving Water Impacts Associated with on the receiving streams’ biological communities. Since total
Construction Site Discharges control of fine sediment in construction site runoff is
unlikely, this project attempted to determine the tolerable
The following is a summary of a recent research project amount of fine sediment that can be discharged to a stream or
that investigated actual in-stream biological conditions river without causing serious detrimental conditions to the
downstream of construction sites having varying levels of aquatic ecosystem. Currently available EPA-approved rapid
erosion controls (none, the use of filter fences, and filter bioassessment procedures were not derived specifically to
fences plus grass buffers) for comparison. The project title is: measure the impacts of siltation on biological communities,
Studies to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Current BMPs in nor have the sensitivities of the metrics to siltation-caused
Controlling Stormwater Discharges from Small stress been evaluated. One of the project objectives was
Construction Sites and was conducted for the Alabama therefore to develop or refine metrics that are more sensitive
Water Resources Research Institute, Project 2001AL4121B, for comparing the level of impairments between sites
by Drs. Robert Angus, Ken Marion and Melinda Lalor of the affected by construction site erosion. These improved
University of Alabama at Birmingham. The initial phase of metrics are expected to be extremely useful for evaluating
the project, described below, was completed in 2002. the utility of alternative erosion controls.

Research Objectives Methods

This project examined the effectiveness of low-cost This study was conducted in the upper Cahaba River
erosion controls, as well as the effects of the discharged silt watershed in north central Alabama, near Birmingham. The

study areas had the following characteristics: (1) topography

and soil types representative of the upland physiographic
regions in the Southeast (i.e., southern Appalachian and
foothill areas). Thus, findings from this study should be
relevant to a large portion of the Southeast. (2) The rainfall
amounts and intensities in this region are representative of
many areas of the Southeast, and (3) the expanding suburbs
of the metropolitan Birmingham area are rapidly
encroaching upon the upper Cahaba River and its tributaries.
The effectiveness of in-place erosion control devices (silt
fences and grass buffers) were evaluated at small
construction sites. Water passing through the filter fences
was sampled during “intense” (≥1 inch/hr) rain events. The
runoff samples were analyzed for turbidity (using a
nephelometer), particle size distribution (using a Coulter
Counter Multi-Sizer IIe), and total solids (dissolved solids Figure 1.2. Comparison of numbers of small particles (<5 µm) from similar
plus suspended/non-filterable solids). Sampling was only samples taken in undisturbed vegetated areas (control), below silt fences,
carried out on sites with properly-installed and and from areas with no runoff contr. Note: numbers of grab samples in each
category are shown above each corresponding bar (Angus, et al. 2002).
well-maintained silt fences, located immediately upgrade
from areas with good vegetative cover. Stormwater runoff
samples were collected from sheet flows above silt fences, but not below a silt fence (Figure 1.2 and Table 1.2). Silt
and from points below the fence within the vegetated buffer. fences were found to be better than no control measures at
Six tributary or upper mainstream sites were studied to all, but not substantially. The mean count of small particles
investigate the effects of sedimentation from construction below the silt fences were about 50% less than that from
sites on both habitat quality and the biological “health” of the areas with no erosion control measures, even though the
aquatic ecosystem (using benthic macroinvertebrates and fences appeared to be properly installed and in good order.
fish). No other sediment sources, except for the construction However, the variabilities were large and the difference
areas, affected the study sites. Two of the sites generated between the means was not statistically significant (Table
heavy sediment loads, two were moderately impacted, and 1.2). This level of control is similar to levels found during
two (reference sites) had little, or no, sediment inputs. Each controlled laboratory tests. The silt fences obviously did not
site was assessed in the spring to evaluate immediate effects reduce particle counts to levels comparable to nearby
of the sediment, and again during the following late summer undisturbed sites (Table 1.2). For every variable measured
or early fall to evaluate delayed effects. The EPA’s (turbidity, total solids, suspended solids, etc.), the mean
“Revision to Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in values of samples taken below silt fences were significantly
Streams and Rivers” was used to assess the habitat quality at higher (p < 0.001) than samples collected from undisturbed
the study sites. vegetated control sites collected nearby and at the same time.
These data therefore indicate that silt fences are only
marginally effective at reducing soil particulates in runoff
Preliminary Results water. Surprisingly, the amount of silt in the runoff (as
measured with the variables listed above) was not
Effectiveness of Silt Fences significantly correlated with slope of the site, or the amount
or intensity of rainfall. This may reflect the fact that samples
Comparisons were made between samples collected were only collected during “intense” (>1 inch/hour) rainfall
immediately below silt fences and samples collected nearby events, the most erosive category.

TABLE 1.2. Mean values (± std. error) of particle counts in similar samples taken during >1″/hr rain events
in unvegetated control sites, below silt fences, and in disturbed areas with no barrier (Angus, et al. 2002).
No Barriers (n= 40) Filter Fence (n =23) Control (n = 34)
Total Particles 2.18 × 108 ± 3.28 × 107 1.01 × 108 ± 2.48 × 107 2.45 × 106 ± 3.54 × 105
Small Particles 2.13 × 108 ± 3.21 × 107 9.82 × 107 ± 2.43 × 107 2.36 × 106 ± 3.44 × 105
Large Particles 4.37 × 106 ± 9.20 × 105 2.91 × 106 ± 7.28 × 105 8.56 × 104 ± 1.31 × 104
Note: In each row, the mean for the Control is significantly lower than for the other cells in the same row (ANOVA on log transformed data, p << 0.001). Means
for the “No Barriers” and “Filter Fence” treatments were not significantly different for any particle size groups (p > 0.05), although the filter fence sites had apparently reduced
particle counts.
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 5

Effectiveness of Filter Fences with Vegetated Buffers Benthic Macroinvertebrates

Runoff samples were also collected immediately below A number of stream benthic macroinvertebrate
filter fences, and below filter fences after flow over buffers community characteristics were also found to be sensitive to
having 5, 10, and 15 feet of dense (intact) vegetation. Again, sedimentation. Metrics based on these characteristics differ
only sites with filter fences which appeared to be properly greatly between sediment-impacted and control sites (Figure
installed and maintained were evaluated. Mean total solids in 1.4). Some of the metrics that appear to reflect
samples collected below silt fences and a 15 foot wide sediment-associated stresses include the Hilsenhoff Biotic
vegetated buffer zone were about 20% lower, on average, Index (HBI), a variation of the EPT index (%EPT minus
than those samples collected immediately below the silt Baetis), and the Sorensen Index of Similarity to a reference
fence. Preliminary analysis of the data indicate that the site. The HBI index is a weighted mean tolerance value; high
installation of filter fences above an intact, good vegetated HBI values indicate sites dominated by disturbance-tolerant
buffer removes sediment from construction site runoff more macroinvertebrate taxa. The EPT% index is the percent of
effectively than with the use of filter fences alone. High the collection represented by organisms in the generally
variations in the effectiveness were observed, likely due to disturbance-sensitive orders Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and
variations in site microenvironments. Longer buffer lengths Trichoptera. Specimens of the genus Baetis were not
(15 feet) generally resulted in greater removals of sediment included in the index as they are relatively disturbance-
than shorter buffer lengths (5 feet). An increase in the tolerant. The HBI and the EPT indices also show positive
percent removal of sediment in the vegetated buffer strip correlations to several other measures of disturbance, such as
appeared to correlate weakly with a decrease in the site percent of the watershed altered by development.
slope. In collaboration with the Jefferson County Stormwater
Management Authority, this project developed a method for
predicting the soil erosion damage potential of a site to affect
Development of Biological Metrics Sensitive to receiving water biological conditions. The cartographic
Sedimentation Effects (Fish) model consists of selected data layers for the study area,
including NRCS soils, multispectral satellite imagery, parcel
Analysis of the fish biota indicates that various metrics level land use, and a digital elevation model. The derived
used to evaluate the biological integrity of the fish layers are then combined in a Geographical Information
community also are affected by highly sedimented streams. System (GIS) to produce a Sedimentation Potential Index
As shown in Figure 1.3, the overall composition of the (SPI). This index is a measure of the “erodibility” of a site
population, as quantified by the Index of Biotic Integrity and an indication of the potential to produce excessive silt
(IBI) is lower, the proportion and biomass of darters, a runoff if disturbed. Calculated SPI values for various
disturbance-sensitive group, is lower; the proportion and subwatersheds were compared with measured biological
biomass of sunfish is higher; the Shannon-Weiner diversity characteristics (Figure 1.5). The calculated SPI scores
index is lower; and the number of disturbance-tolerant strongly correlated with a number of metrics that reflected
species higher. sedimentation impacts.

Figure 1.3. Association between two fish metrics and amount of stream sediment. Note: the IBI (Index of Biotic Integrity) is based on numerous characteristics
of the fish population. The percent relative abundance of darters is the percentage of darters to all the fish collected at a site (Angus, et al. 2002).

Figure 1.4. Associations between two macroinvertebrate metrics and the amount of stream sediment (Angus, et al. 2002).

Figure 1.5. Associations between two macroinvertebrate metrics and the sedimentation potential in the same watershed (Angus, et al. 2002).
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 7

Receiving water problem investigations conducted at affecting construction sites—the regulations that will affect
many locations throughout the country have led to increasing almost all construction sites throughout the nation.
local and national regulations, and the development of new Chapter 2 reviews erosion and sediment control tools that
technologies and methods, for the reduction of construction are described in some example state guidance handbooks
site erosion. The rest of this introductory chapter outlines the for use in addressing specific elements of these
Phase I and Phase II NPDES stormwater regulations regulations.

Trying to sell badly eroded land (difficult to sell lots and homes in these
types of neglected areas).

Erosion Threatening Homes (This home is actually being constructed on 12 feet of fill soil. The foundation footers are 14 feet below the groundline. Note the rills
draining down to the drainage swale) (Photographs by D. Lake).

Damaged from erosion requiring repairs (IECA photo).


Sediment Problems (WI DNR) (Natural streams alternate pools and riffles and have varying stream sediment
textures. With erosion impacts, pools are filled and coarse material becomes covered with fines).

Typical stream showing riffle and pools (WI DNR). Sediment-laden channel bottom: unsupportive (WI DNR).

Clean gravel channel bottom: supportive of fish (WI DNR).

Natural stream showing coarse bottom material in riffle area, and impacted stream showing siltation in area of coarse bottom material.
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 9

Drainage Ditch Filled with Construction Sediment (J. Voorhees) Eroded Streams and Channels (WI DNR) (Eroding banks affect shoreline
(Decreased drainage capacity causes increased flooding). water quality).

Most stormwater has low turbidity unless affected by eroding soils. Local erosion problem affecting turbidity of one drainage branch.

Eroding soils from bare ground can be responsible for much sediment loss. A small utility trench can cause high turbidities in downstream runoff.

Buried debris and other material adversely affects soil structure and future Vast amounts of bare ground exposed for extended periods at
drainage. construction sites are responsible for most of the erosion problems,
especially if on a slope.
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 11

Lack of Following a Good Plan recreational lake. It was later determined that the soils that
washed off this site destroyed two acres of walleye spawning
This site began, at least on paper, with all the promise area. Soil analyses indicated that the site soil contained
of a well-planned, phased, and properly designed 75–98 percent material smaller than 0.074 mm, or 74 µm,
residential development. The consulting engineering firm and was therefore highly mobile when eroded.
had divided this 70 acre site into four construction phases, The site was shut down by state authorities after the
balancing the cuts and fills for each phase. They had sediment plume into the lake was noticed in late December.
incorporated appropriate erosion and sediment control Remediation included seeding and mulching the entire site
practices in the stormwater pollution prevention plan that for spring thaw conditions, placing stone check dams in all
also contained an 8 acre pond for water quality and quantity drainage conveyances, installing a rock dam to create a large
control. sediment basin, construction of five rock chutes for gradient
Unfortunately, once the project began construction in control, and six sediment traps at various locations on the
mid-August, the developer instructed the contractor to site. The cost for this work was approximately $35,000. In
ignore the plan and build the entire site and infrastructure in addition, the developer paid a $10,000 fine and was placed
one phase, with 65 aces disturbed at one time. In fact, the on a graduated fine scale for any additional water quality
developer never signed nor submitted the Notice of Intent for violations.
the project as required under the state permit regulations. It Even though this site was relatively flat, the high content
began raining in mid-October and was still raining in late of fine particulates in the soil coupled with the total disregard
December. Unfortunately this site’s outlet drains to a for erosion control practices and lack of knowledge of the
tributary only 3,800 feet from a high quality sport fishing drainage area caused this disaster.

This exposed site is under a state shutdown order for destroying 2 acres of walleye spawning area in a nearby lake. 65 acres of the 70 acre site was stripped
exposing soil containing 75–98 percent fines that could not settle out on site.

Sediment Sources

Continuous operations at a solid waste landfill require special precautions End of season construction site shutdowns can also result in excessive
to prevent excessive erosion. This site has a large sediment pond, with erosion during late winter and early spring rains during periodic thaws
pre-treatment forebays, plus a final sand filter, to meet their 50 NTU unless the site is well-stabilized for the season.
discharge permit requirement for turbidity.

Control of runoff is critical at the beginning of construction. Here the Cleanup of excessive sediment on roads should not include rinsing the
stormwater infrastructure is in place but the 24 inch storm sewer is 75% debris to the storm drainage inlet.
plugged with sediment. Note the large size of the material on the catch
basin grate (Photograph by D. Lake).
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 13

Stock Pile Problems and Working Close to Roads

Stock piles of material can be important sediment sources. (Especially when located on the road itself, directly connected to the drainage system and receiving

It is very difficult to work close to the road and prevent debris from
entering the drainage system.

Improper Disposal of Construction Debris and Improper Equipment Maintenance

Engine repairs and other heavy equipment maintenance should not be Hazardous materials and other unsafe debris should never be left exposed
allowed on construction sites, unless suitably protected from the elements. at construction sites.

Improper waste concrete disposal. Fuel spillage at re-fueling area is both hazardous and damaging.
Problems Associated with Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Loss 15

Poor Drainage Construction

Poor grading directed runoff away from drain inlet and to the unprotected Another unfortunate example of poor grading allowing runoff to miss
slope. Expensive repairs are now needed. protected downslope channel.

Fugitive Dust Problems

In this commercial mall re-habilitation project, dust became a problem Another example of fugitive dust causing potential traffic safety problems.
even though much of the site area was impervious. Complaints were Construction was halted this day due to high winds at this road-widening
received from homeowners beyond the work area in the direction of the project, but unstabilized and exposed ground still allowed excessive dust
prevailing winds. losses.

Fugitive dust losses and traffic safety problem as heavy equipment was
being driven on unprotected construction roads near existing roads during
period of high winds.
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 17

CONSTRUCTION SITE EROSION AND SEDIMENT 1998 edition of the Federal Register (40 CFR Parts 122 and
CONTROL REGULATIONS 123, 63 FR 1563). There was a 90-day comment period and
about 550 comments were received. The EPA held public
The NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination hearings at six locations to explain the proposed Phase II
System) was established as part of the Clean Water Act rules and to obtain public comment. The final phase II rule
amendments of 1972. It was intended to control and regulate was signed on December 8, 1999, after modifications based
point sources of water pollution throughout the U.S., with the on these comments. Phase II NPDES permit applications
eventual objective of totally eliminating these discharges and were due starting March 10, 2003, but the specific
ensuring all U.S. receiving waters were “fishable” and compliance dates were set by each state regulatory agency.
“swimmable.” Over the years, these lofty objectives have Two new classes of facilities were established for
been scaled back, but these regulations have done much to automatic coverage on a nationwide basis:
improve the quality of U.S. waters. 1. Small municipal separate storm sewer systems located in
These initial regulations affected municipal sewage urbanized areas (about 3,500 municipalities) [Phase I
treatment plants (or “publicly owned treatment works,” included medium and large municipalities]
POTWs) and industrial discharges. Stormwater was initially
2. Construction activities that disturb less than 5 acres of
considered an exempt point source and was not included in
land (about 110,000 sites a year) [Phase I included
the initial regulations. After reviewing water quality data
construction sites larger than 5 acres]
showing that stormwater caused problems, the EPA finally
established separate regulations for stormwater in 1987. The A “no exposure” incentive for Phase I sites was also
original Phase I regulations for stormwater (implemented in proposed for industrial activities (will exclude about 70,000
1990) applied to large municipalities (generally population facilities).
>250,000) and certain industries. Medium-sized
municipalities (100,000 to 250,000 in population, plus other Permit Requirements for Each Regulatory Agency
industries) were regulated several years later. The recently
implemented Phase II regulations are intended to be applied The following are the required elements for each plan to
to all urban areas in the U.S. The Phase I regulations included be prepared by the local regulatory agencies:
construction activity as an industry and were applied to all
construction sites greater than 5 acres. The Phase II • Develop, implement, and enforce a program to reduce
regulations generally will apply to all construction sites the discharge of pollutants and protect water quality to
larger than 1 acre. the “maximum extent practicable”
Many municipalities and some states have had local • Must include six minimum control measures:
regulations affecting construction sites for many years, —Public education and outreach
independent of the federal regulations. Some features of —Public involvement and participation
these are included in Appendix 1A. —Illicit discharge detection and elimination
—Construction site stormwater runoff control
CWA 402(p)(6) Initial Phase II Rule (For Small —Post-construction stormwater management in new
Municipalities) development and redevelopment
—Pollution prevention and good housekeeping for
The purpose of the initial Phase II regulations was to municipal operations
designate additional sources of stormwater, beyond Phase I, • Must submit a notice of intent (NOI), or permit
that needed to be regulated to protect receiving water quality. application, and identify for each minimum control
These regulations required that all unregulated dischargers measure:
of stormwater apply for NPDES permits by March 10, 2003. —Best management practices to be used
According to the EPA, this regulation could apply to millions —Measurable goals
of industrial/commercial facilities and over 22,000 —Timeframe for implementation
municipalities. —Responsible persons
A Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) helped to • Must evaluate program and submit reports
develop the proposed Phase II rules. The membership in the
FACA included a cross-section of interested stakeholders The objective is to include greater flexibility in the Phase
(private environmental groups, municipal representatives, II rule by encouraging the use of general permits, encourage
trade associations, state regulators, and various other municipalities to determine appropriate stormwater controls,
experts) from throughout the U.S. They held 14 meetings not require extensive monitoring by permittees, and
from 1995–1998 and prepared three preliminary drafts that recognize and contemplate the use of existing programs,
were circulated for review and comment. including existing structures and mechanisms for public
The proposed Phase II rule was published in the Jan. 9, participation.

Construction Site Regulations 3. Requirements for nonstructural and structural BMPs

4. Priorities for site inspections
The Phase II regulations will extend existing Phase I 5. Education and training
regulations for construction coverage to:
6. Exemption of some activities due to limited impacts
• All sites that result in the disturbance of 1 acre or more, 7. Incentives, awards, and streamlining mechanisms
but less than 5 acres (designated nationwide) 8. Description of staff and resources
• Sites that result in disturbance of less than 1 acre
(potential designation by permitting authority). Effluent Limit Guidelines Schedule
The regulations will encourage the use of local regulations The following discussion is summarized from the EPA
that control erosion and sediment to the “maximum extent reports (USEPA 2002 and 2004) describing the proposed
practicable,” control other waste at construction sites, allow effluent guidelines, and the final ruling, for the construction
the granting of waivers by the permitting authority, and to and development NPDES categories.
qualifying local and state programs. Section 304(m) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires
The EPA allows the local agencies to waive coverage for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish
construction sites that meet the following criteria: a plan every two years that consists of three elements. First,
• Rainfall erosivity factor (NRCS RUSLE rainfall factor under section 304(m)(1)(A), the EPA is required to establish
“R”) less than 2 (during the period of construction) a schedule for the annual review and revision of existing
(“low rainfall”) effluent guidelines in accordance with section 304(b).
• Annual soil loss of less than 2 tons/acre/year (“low Section 304(b) applies to effluent limit guidelines (ELGs) for
erosion potential”) direct dischargers and requires the EPA to revise such
• A watershed plan or TMDL assessment that addresses regulations as appropriate. Second, under section
the pollutants of concern 304(m)(1)(B), the EPA must identify categories of sources
discharging toxic or nonconventional pollutants for which
The rule would require: the EPA has not published Best Available Technology
(BAT) ELGs under section 304(b)(2) or new source
1. Control of other wastes at construction sites (discarded performance standards under section 306. Finally, under
building materials, concrete truck washout, sanitary section 304(m)(1)(C), the EPA must establish a schedule for
wastes, etc.) the promulgation of BAT and New Source Performance
2. Appropriate best management practices (such as silt Standards (NSPS) for the categories identified under
fences, temporary detention ponds, etc.) subparagraph (B) not later than three years after being
3. Pre-construction reviews of site management plans identified in the 304(m) plan. Section 304(m) does not apply
to pretreatment standards for indirect dischargers, which the
4. Receipt and consideration of public information
EPA promulgates pursuant to sections 307(b) and 307(c) of
5. Regular inspections during construction the CWA.
6. Penalties to ensure compliance On October 30, 1989, the Natural Resources Defense
Council, Inc. (NRDC), and Public Citizen, Inc., filed an
If local regulations incorporate the following action against EPA in which they alleged, among other
erosion-preventing principles and elements into its things, that EPA had failed to comply with section 304(m).
stormwater program, then it would be considered as a Plaintiffs and the EPA agreed to a settlement of that action in
“qualifying” program that meets Federal requirements: a consent decree entered on January 31, 1992. (Natural
Resources Defense Council et al v. Whitman, D.D.C. Civil
Five Principles: Action No. 89-2980). The consent decree, which has been
1. Good site planning modified several times, established a schedule by which the
EPA is to propose and take final action for eleven point
2. Minimize soil movement
source categories identified by name in the decree and for
3. Capture sediment eight other point source categories identified only as new or
4. Good housekeeping practices revised rules, numbered 5 through 12. The EPA selected the
5. Mitigation of post-construction stormwater discharges Construction and Development (C&D) category as the
subject for New or Revised Rule #10. The decree, as
Eight Elements: modified, called for the Administrator to sign a proposed
ELG for the C&D category no later than May 15, 2002, and
1. Program description to take final action on that proposal no later than March 31,
2. Coordination mechanism 2004. A settlement agreement between the parties, signed on
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 19

June 28, 2000, requires that the EPA develop regulatory Final Rule
options applicable to discharges from construction,
development and redevelopment, covering site sizes On March 31, 2004, the EPA Administrator signed a
included in the Phase I and Phase II NPDES stormwater rules Federal Register notice (published on April 4, 2004) opting
(i.e., one acre, or greater). The EPA was required to develop for Option 3, basically to rely on the range of existing
options including numeric effluent limitations for programs, regulations, and initiatives at the federal, state,
sedimentation and turbidity; control of construction site and local levels for the control of runoff from construction
pollutants other than sedimentation and turbidity (e.g. sites rather than establish a new effluent guideline.
discarded building materials, concrete truck washout, trash, For additional information regarding the Construction &
etc.); controls for reducing postconstruction runoff; controls Development Effluent Guidelines project, the EPA listed the
for construction sites; and requirements to design stormwater following main contacts:
controls to maintain pre-development runoff conditions,
where practicable. The settlement also required the EPA to Jesse W. Pritts
issue guidance to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems 202-566-1038
(MS4s) and other permittees on maintenance of
postconstruction controls identified in the proposed ELGs. Engineering and Analysis Division (4303T)
The EPA therefore proposed Effluent Limitation US EPA
Guidelines for discharges associated with construction and 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
development activities under the authority of Sections 301, Washington, DC 20460
304, 306, 308, 402, and 501 of the Clean Water Act (CWA)
(the Federal Water Pollution Control Act), 33 United States George Denning, Economist
Code (U.S.C.) 1311, 1314, 1316, 1318, 1342, and 1361. The 202-566-1067
proposed rule contained three options for controlling
stormwater discharges from construction sites (USEPA
2002): Existing Regulations

Option 1 would establish inspection and certification provisions The following is an excerpt from the Construction and
to ensure proper implementation of controls. This option would Development Fact Sheet: Final Action–Selection of
apply to all construction sites disturbing one or more acres of land
required to obtain a permit under the existing National Pollutant
Non-Regulatory Option, EPA 821-F-04-001; March 2004.
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater regulations.
The EPA decided to rely on the range of existing programs,
This option would amend the NPDES regulations at 40 CFR Part
regulations, and initiatives at the federal, state, and local level for the
122, but would not create effluent limitation guidelines.
control of stormwater runoff from construction sites rather than
establish a national effluent guideline at this time. After careful
Option 2 would add minimum requirements for preparation of a
study, they determined that almost every state has requirements in
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) as well as minimum
place that are equivalent to, or even more protective, than those
requirements for sizing sediment basins, installing erosion and
contained in the proposed effluent guidelines (option 2). In addition,
sediment controls, providing temporary stabilization to exposed
over 5,000 municipalities are currently developing, or upgrading,
soils, and conducting regular inspections. Option 2 would apply to all
local programs and requirements for construction site runoff. The
sites that disturb five or more acres of land, consistent with the
current system of federal requirements as outlined in the NPDES
permitting requirements of the Phase I NPDES stormwater
regulations allows states and local governments to develop programs
regulations. This option would create a new effluent guidelines
that will both protect the environment and maintain flexibility to
category at 40 CFR Part 450 and would also modify 40 CFR Part
tailor requirements to meet local conditions.

Option 3 would not establish any new requirements. The EPA wants local decision-makers to have maximum
flexibility to develop control strategies that are tailored to the
The EPA estimated that Option 1 would cost discharges of stormwater runoff from construction sites
approximately $130 million annually, while preventing the under their jurisdiction. They believed that the proposed
annual discharge of approximately 5.25 million tons of Total regulatory options would have limited the flexibility
Suspended Solids (TSS) and associated turbidity to surface permitting authorities currently have to use control strategies
waters. The estimated annual monetized benefits of this that reflect local conditions. Further, they felt that the costs of
option are $10.4 million. Option 2 was estimated to cost the proposed regulatory options would be very high, and
approximately $505 million annually, while preventing the these options would provide only marginal environmental
discharge of approximately 11.1 million tons of TSS and improvements over regulations already in place. EPA’s
associated turbidity to surface waters annually. The economic analysis indicated that the average incremental
estimated annual monetized benefits of Option 2 are $22.0 cost of construction and post-construction controls for a
million. Option 3 was not expected to have any costs or single family house would have ranged from about $1,000 to
benefits. $2,200, depending on the degree of implementation of the

Phase II stormwater program. They concluded that the most Ordinances or other regulatory mechanisms requiring the
implementation of proper erosion and sediment controls
stringent of the regulatory options would have reduced
sediment loadings from construction sites by only about one Review of site plans to ensure proper design and installation of
sediment and erosion controls
percent more than the existing regulations (assuming, of
Site inspections and enforcement of control measures
course, adequate compliance and enforcement of these
existing regulations). Sanctions to ensure compliance
Procedures for public review and comment
Existing State Programs Review of site plans

In March 2003, Phase II of EPA’s NPDES regulations for The NPDES regulations require that municipalities set up
stormwater went into effect and required that permitting procedures for review of site plans to ensure proper
authorities establish programs to regulate runoff from implementation of sediment and erosion controls. The
construction sites of one to five acres in size. These new EPA’s proposed effluent guideline would have required
requirements are expected to affect approximately 200,000 certification of the design and installation of sediment and
construction sites annually. Larger construction sites have erosion controls by a qualified professional (generally a
been regulated under the NPDES program since 1992. The third-party). The 5,000 communities covered under the
authorized states and EPA are implementing these new Phase II requirements are starting to implement their
requirements (Phase II) and they will result in significant programs for site plan review. States and communities are
reductions of pollutants from well-designed and maintained working together to define and develop effective programs.
construction sites. Communities have until 2008 to fully implement these
The EPA’s analyses concluded that every state had requirements.
regulations and programs in place that incorporate most of
the provisions of the most stringent proposed option (#2). EPA Resources for Construction Site Stormwater
The following lists how states are already addressing these Management
key requirements of the proposed effluent guideline:
Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans—All 50 states require
A range of regulatory programs and resources are
site managers to prepare a stormwater pollution prevention plan, currently in place and being implemented at the federal, state
erosion and sediment control plan, or an equivalent document. and local levels address construction site stormwater runoff.
Inspections by Construction Site Operator—All 50 states require
construction site operators to inspect their sites on a regular basis. Regulatory Programs
Erosion and Sediment Control—All 50 states require site
managers to implement a combination of erosion and sediment NPDES Regulations—The NPDES regulations for
controls to prevent soil erosion and to manage construction site stormwater cover construction sites in two ways. First,
runoff. The EPA’s proposed effluent guideline would have mandated
sediment basins of a particular size across the country. Currently,
authorized states and EPA (in non-authorized states) must
states base their technical requirements for basins or other erosion develop programs and permits for sites disturbing one or
control techniques on local rainfall patterns and other considerations. more acres of land. Second, municipalities in urbanized areas
Stabilization of Soils after Construction—All 50 states require must develop comprehensive programs to regulate
stabilization of soils after construction activities have temporarily or stormwater from construction activities within their
permanently ceased. The EPA’s proposed effluent guidelines would jurisdiction.
have mandated this step within 14 days. States currently set their own
Construction—The NPDES Phase I and Phase II
requirements based on local conditions. In dry areas, for instance, 14
days may not be necessary because of low rainfall. It may also be stormwater regulations require permits for construction sites
impractical due to slow growth of vegetation. that disturb one or more acres of land. Phase I became
effective in 1992 and regulates construction sites five acres
Existing Local Programs or larger in size. Authorized states and EPA developed
detailed permit requirements for these sites and refined those
Many local governments also have long-standing requirements as permits are reissued (NPDES permits are
programs in place to control sediment and erosion from reissued every 5 years). Effective in March 2003, Phase II
construction sites within their jurisdiction. EPA’s extends these requirements to also cover sites of one to five
stormwater regulations (Phase I and Phase II) set minimum acres.
requirements for these programs. Approximately, 6,000 Municipal—Approximately 6000 municipalities with
municipalities are covered by these regulations. Many of the separate storm sewer systems are covered by EPA’s NPDES
approximately 5,000 communities covered by Phase II are stormwater regulations (Phase I and II). They are required to
currently developing or upgrading their programs to meet develop programs to regulate stormwater from sites within
these requirements. These are some of the minimum their jurisdiction that are one acre or larger. Most
requirements for these programs: municipalities have programs that cover construction sites.
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 21

The NPDES regulations outline a set of minimum controls Provides grants to states, territories and tribes to support a
and many cities are enhancing their current programs to meet variety of nonpoint source implementation projects
these requirements. Municipal programs must include local including those addressing stormwater runoff.
enforceable ordinances, review of site plans, inspections,
and enforcement procedures. Effective March 2003, the Copies of the final Federal Register notice and supporting
Phase II regulations cover municipalities in urban areas with materials are available at:
populations up to 100,000 (the earlier Phase I regulations construction
addressed larger municipalities). These communities have Additionally, they can be requested by sending an email to
five years to develop and fully implement these programs. For further information
pertaining to the final ruling, they list Ms. Pamela Barr at
EPA Resources for the Control of Construction Site (202) 566-0430 or send her an email at
Runoff, for further information.

The following websites are listed by the EPA as main Proposed EPA Effluent Guidelines for
sources of information and technical assistance that they Construction and Development Category
provide for state and local agencies, plus contractors and
others involved in construction site erosion control: The following discussion is summarized from the EPA’s
State Water Pollution Control Program Grants Program guidance document prepared for the proposed effluent guidelines (USEPA 2002) and from the fact sheet describing
(Section 106) provides funding to state programs to the final ruling (USEPA 2004). The proposed effluent
implement the programs under the Clean Water, including guidelines contained three options. Option 2 would have
stormwater programs. required the permittee to prepare a stormwater pollution
prevention plan (SWPPP) and implement the erosion and
Stormwater Website sediment controls contained in the EPA’s Construction General Permit (CGP). In addition, the permittee would have
Contains comprehensive reference and guidance materials been required to conduct periodic site inspections and
for control of construction site runoff. provide certifications in a site log book. The final rule
published in early April 2004 accepted the third option,
Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center which was to rely on the range of existing programs for the control of runoff from construction sites, rather than
Contains information and links to a wide variety of establish a new effluent guideline. Their rational was that
information, including state regulatory programs and provisions contained in the most demanding option (#2)
manuals for sediment and erosion controls. were already included in almost all state and local
regulations. Therefore, the originally proposed option 2 may
Electronic Notice of Intent System
possibly be considered a basic benchmark, and is
summarized below.
An online, electronic application system for obtaining
coverage under EPA’s Construction General Permit. This
system also provides construction site operators with General Erosion and Sediment Controls
comprehensive information on controlling runoff and
meeting permit requirements. Each SWPPP would have been required to include a
description of appropriate controls designed to retain
National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint sediment on site to the extent practicable. These general
Source Pollution from Urban Areas erosion and sediment controls would be required to be included in the SWPPP described below. The SWPPP would
A technical guidance and reference document on best be required to include a description of interim and permanent
management practices to control urban runoff. stabilization practices for the site, including a schedule of
when the practices would be implemented. Stabilization
Smart Growth Program practices could include the following:
Provides tools, technical and financial assistance, and 1. Establishment of temporary or permanent vegetation;
training on complying with stormwater requirements while
2. Mulching, geotextiles, or sod stabilization;
also encouraging innovation in land development.
3. Vegetative buffer strips;
Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program 4. Protection of trees and preservation of mature vegetation.

The EPA recommended that all controls be properly 1. The operator would be required to prevent litter,
selected and installed in accordance with sound engineering construction chemicals, and construction debris from
practices and, manufacturer’s specifications. becoming a pollutant source in stormwater discharges;
Sediment Controls 2. The operator would be required to contain construction
and building materials in appropriate storage areas and
Operators would be required to design and install manage the materials to prevent contamination of
structural controls to divert flows from exposed soils, to store stormwater runoff.
flows, or otherwise to limit runoff and the discharge of
pollutants from exposed areas, and to describe controls in the
SWPPP. The controls required are as follows: Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan

1. For common drainage locations that serve an area with Permittees would be required to develop and implement
10 or more acres disturbed at one time, the operator Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPPs) prior to
would be required to provide a temporary (or permanent) groundbreaking at any construction site. In areas where EPA
sediment basin that provides storage for a calculated is not the permit authority, operators may be required to
volume of runoff from a 2 year, 24-hour storm from each prepare documents that may serve as the functional
disturbed acre drained, or equivalent control measures, equivalent of a SWPPP. Such alternate documents would
where attainable, until final stabilization of the site. satisfy the requirements for a SWPPP so long as they contain
Where no such calculation has been performed, the the necessary elements of a SWPPP. A SWPPP would be
operator would be required to provide a temporary (or required to incorporate the following information:
permanent) sediment basin providing 3,600 cubic feet of
storage per acre drained, or equivalent control measures, 1. A narrative description of the construction activity,
where attainable, until final stabilization of the site. including a description of the intended sequence of
When computing the number of acres draining into a major activities that disturb soils on the site (Major
common location, it would not be necessary to include activities include any clearing, grubbing, excavating,
flows from off-site areas and flows from on-site areas grading, soil stockpiling, and utilities and infrastructure
that are either undisturbed or have undergone final installation, or any other activity that results in
stabilization where such flows are diverted around both significant disturbance of soils.);
the disturbed area and the sediment basin. 2. A general location map (e.g., portion of a city or county
2. In determining whether a sediment basin is attainable, map) and a site map. The site map shall include
the operator may consider factors such as site soils, descriptions of the following:
slope, available area on site, etc. In any event, the a. Drainage patterns and approximate slopes anticipated
operator would be required to consider public safety, after major grading activities;
especially as it relates to children, as a design factor for b. The total area of the site and the area of the site that is
the sediment basin. Use of alternative sediment controls expected to be disturbed by excavation, clearing,
would be required where site limitations preclude a safe grading and other construction activities during the
basin design. life of the permit;
3. For portions of the site that drain to a common location c. Areas that will not be disturbed;
and have a total contributing drainage area of less than 10 d. Locations of erosion and sediment controls identified
acres, the operator would be required to consider in the SWPPP;
installation of sediment traps or other sediment control e. Locations where stabilization practices are expected
devices. to occur;
f. Locations of off-site material, waste, borrow or
4. Where neither a sediment basin nor equivalent controls
equipment storage areas;
are attainable due to site limitations, the operator would
g. Surface waters (including wetlands); and
be required to install silt fences, vegetative buffer strips
h. Locations where stormwater discharges to a surface
or equivalent sediment controls for all downslope
boundaries of the construction area and for those side
3. A description of available data on soils present at the
slope boundaries deemed appropriate for individual site
4. A description of the controls to be used to reduce
Pollution Prevention Measures pollutant discharges during construction
5. A description of the general timing (or sequence) in
The operator would be required to implement the relation to the construction schedule when each erosion
following pollution prevention measures: and sediment control is to be implemented;
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 23

6. An estimate of the pre-development and post- 4. The operator would be required to post at the site, in a
construction runoff coefficients of the site; publicly-accessible location, a summary of the site
7. The name(s) of the receiving water(s); inspection activities on a monthly basis. EPA
8. Delineation of SWPPP implementation responsibilities recommends that the operator provide contact
for each site owner or operator; information for obtaining a copy of the SWPPP and a
copy of the site inspection log book.
9. Any existing data that describe the stormwater runoff
characteristics at the site (such as data that may be
Site Inspections
collected during a site assessment).
The operator or designated agent of the operator (such as a
Updating the SWPPP consultant, subcontractor, or third party inspection firm)
would be required to conduct regular inspections of the site
The operator would be required to amend the SWPPP and and record the results of such inspection in the site log book.
corresponding erosion and sediment control practices The specific activities that would require inspection and
whenever: certification are:

1. There is a change in design, construction, or 1. After initial groundbreaking, operators would be

maintenance that is expected to have a significant effect required to conduct site inspections at least every 14
on the discharge of pollutants; or calendar days and within 24 hours of the end of a storm
2. Inspections or investigations by site operators, local, event of 0.5 inches or greater. These inspections would
State, Tribal or Federal officials indicate that any erosion be required to be conducted by a qualified professional.
and sediment controls described in the SWPPP are During each inspection, the operator or designated agent
ineffective in eliminating or significantly minimizing would be required to record the following information:
pollutant discharges. a. On a site map, indicate the extent of all disturbed site
areas and drainage pathways. Indicate site areas that
Site Log Book/Certification are expected to undergo initial disturbance or
significant site work within the next 14-day period;
The operator would be required to maintain a record of site b. Indicate on a site map all areas of the site that have
activities in a site log book, as part of the SWPPP. The site undergone temporary or permanent stabilization;
log book shall be maintained as follows: c. Indicate all disturbed site areas that have not
undergone active site work during the previous
1. A copy of the site log book would be required to be 14-day period;
maintained on site and be made available to the d. Inspect all sediment control practices and note the
permitting authority upon request. EPA recommends approximate degree of sediment accumulation as a
that the operator make a copy of the site log book percentage of the sediment storage volume (for
available to the public upon request within a reasonable example 10 percent, 20 percent, 50 percent, etc.).
period; Record all sediment control practices in the site log
2. In the site log book, the operator would be required to book that have sediment accumulation of 50 percent
certify, prior to the commencement of construction or more; and
activities, that the SWPPP meets all Federal, State and e. Inspect all erosion and sediment controls and record
local erosion and sediment control requirements and is all maintenance requirements such as verifying the
available to the permitting authority; integrity of barrier or diversion systems (earthen
3. The operator would be required to have a qualified berms or silt fencing) and containment systems
professional conduct an assessment of the site prior to (sediment basins and sediment traps). Identify any
groundbreaking and certify that the appropriate erosion evidence of rill or gully erosion occurring on slopes
and sediment controls described in the SWPPP have and any loss of stabilizing vegetation or
been adequately designed, sized and installed to ensure seeding/mulching. Document in the site log book any
overall preparedness of the site for initiation of excessive deposition of sediment or ponding water
groundbreaking activities. The operator would be along barrier or diversion systems. Record the depth
required to record the date of initial groundbreaking in of sediment within containment structures, any
the site log book. The operator would be required to erosion near outlet and overflow structures, and verify
certify that the site inspections, soil stabilization the ability of rock filters around perforated riser pipes
activities, and maintenance activities required by the to pass water.
proposed rule have been satisfied within 48 hours of 2. Prior to filing of the Notice of Termination, or the end of
actually meeting such requirements; the permit term, a final site erosion and sediment control

inspection would be required to be conducted by the sediment accumulations greater than 50 percent to restore the
operator or designated agent. The inspector would be original design capacity,
required to certify that the site has undergone final
stabilization using either vegetative or structural State Regulations
stabilization methods and that all temporary erosion and
sediment controls (such as silt fencing) not needed for States and municipalities have been regulating discharges
long-term erosion control have been removed. of runoff from the construction and land development
industry to varying degrees for some time. A compilation of
Stabilization state and selected municipal regulatory approaches was
prepared by the EPA (USEPA 2002) to help establish the
The operator would be required to initiate stabilization baseline for national and regional levels of control. They
measures as soon as practicable in portions of the site where collect data by reviewing state and municipal web sites,
construction activities have temporarily or permanently summary references, state and municipal regulations, and
ceased, but in no case more than 14 days after the stormwater guidance manuals. All states (and the selected
construction activity in that portion of the site has municipalities) were contacted to confirm the data collected
temporarily or permanently ceased. This provision would and to fill in data gaps. Eighty-seven percent of the state
not apply in the following instances: agencies, but a much smaller percentage of municipalities,
responded. The state and municipal regulatory data are
1. Where the initiation of stabilization measures by the 14th described below and the complete data summaries are
day after construction activity temporarily or included in Appendix 1A. Table 1A.1 lists example
permanently ceased is precluded by snow cover or exemptions and waivers, Table 1A.2 shows some preferred
frozen ground conditions, the operator shall initiate practices, and Table 1A.3 lists allowed practices. These three
stabilization measures as soon as practicable; tables include information for both local regulations and
2. Where construction activity on a portion of the site is some state regulations. Table 1A.4 was prepared by the EPA
temporarily ceased, and earth disturbing activities will (USEPA 2002) and lists some specific requirements
be resumed within 21 days, temporary stabilization (numeric standards, design storm frequency, soil
measures need not be initiated on that portion of the stabilization requirements, and inspection frequencies). It is
site. expected that all of the information on these tables may not
3. In arid areas (areas with an average annual rainfall of 0 to be currently accurate, but they do show a good distribution of
10 inches), semi-arid areas (areas with an average annual information. It is always necessary to contact the local
rainfall of 10 to 20 inches), and areas experiencing planning departments and the regional NPDES authority to
droughts where the initiation of stabilization measures obtain the most recent compliance requirements.
by the 14th day after construction activity has
temporarily or permanently ceased is precluded by Compilation of State and Municipal Existing
seasonably arid conditions, the operator shall initiate Control Strategies, Criteria, and Standards
stabilization measures as soon as practicable.
A summary of criteria and standards that are implemented
Maintenance by States and municipalities as of August 2000 are presented
in Tables 1.3 and 1.4, respectively. The EPA (USEPA 2002)
The operator would be required to remove accumulated concluded that State requirements are generally equal to, or
sediment from sediment traps and ponds identified as having less stringent, than municipalities that are covered under the

TABLE 1.3. State or Regional Planning Authority Requirements for Water Quality Protection (USEPA 2002).
Percent of National Percent of National Percent of National
Number of States Developed Acreage Developed Acreage Developed Acreage
Standard with Requirement* with Requirement without Requirement without Information
Solids or sediment reduction 11 24 61 15
Numeric effluent limits for TSS, settleable 2 11 76 13
solids, or turbidity
Numeric design depth or volume for 22 53 28 19
water quality treatment
Habitat/biological measures 3 7 80 13
Physical in-stream condition controls 8 17 70 13
Water quality or effluent monitoring 3 6 83 11
*Florida has 5 Water Management Districts. If any of these Districts met a particular standard, the entire state annual developed acreage was counted.
Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations 25

TABLE 1.4. Municipal Planning Authority Requirements (USEPA 2002).

Percent of Municipalities Percent of Municipalities Percent of Municipalities
Standard Reviewed with Requirement Reviewed without Requirement without Information
Design storm for peak discharge control 39 45 16
Solids or sediment percent reduction 7 77 16
Numeric design depth, storm, or volume NA NA NA
for water quality treatment
Design storm for flood control 39 16 23
Habitat/biological measures 3 65 32
Physical in-stream condition controls 10 58 32
NA = Not Available
Note: This table reflects data collected from 31 municipalities.

federal Clean Water Act NPDES Stormwater Program (primarily total suspended solids, settleable solids, or
because State requirements apply to all developments within turbidity)
their boundaries including single site development and • Control measures for biological or habitat protection
low-to-high density developments. NPDES Stormwater • Control measures for physical in-stream condition
Program-designated municipalities generally have a controls (primarily streambed and streambank erosion).
population of 100,000 or more and can collect and fund the
resources necessary to design, implement, and monitor The water quantity control measures for peak discharge
separate and potentially more stringent stormwater and runoff volume controls that apply to the
management programs. Table 1.3 contains responses from post-development conditions typically are not applicable
47 of the 54 State controlling agencies. The total is greater during the construction phase when the site is disturbed.
than 50 because Florida has 5 intrastate regional authorities. Pollutant control measures are commonly required during
Some State data were uncertain and repeated contacts to the the construction phase, though the requirements for
responsible State agencies to confirm the data were not post-development stormwater management are broader and
returned. For the same reason, some of the data sought from potentially more stringent.
municipal agencies also were not available for the A variety of manuals and documents were used by the
summaries. EPA (USEPA 2002) to obtain information on design and
The data collected, as shown in Table 1A.4, reflect a cross effectiveness of various erosion and sediment controls,
section of the U.S. by location, but are representative mostly including:
of municipalities that have a population of 100,000, or
greater with relatively few municipalities of smaller 1. State design manuals such as the:
populations represented. Thirty-one municipalities are • Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
included in the summary tables, which is a relatively small
data set compared to the approximately 240 municipalities • Maryland Stormwater Design Manual
with NPDES programs and nearly 3,000 municipalities
nationwide. The data presented for the States in Table 1.3 is stormwatermanual
fairly comprehensive, while data for the municipalities • Denver Urban Drainage Criteria Manual
presented in Table 1.4 is not comprehensive, but does reflect
the diversity of management techniques used at the 2. Guidance documents such as the
municipal level. • Texas Nonpoint Source Book
Tables 1.3 and 1.4 indicate that the following key erosion
and sediment control measures are being employed by States • EPA’s National Menu of BMPs
and municipal/regional authorities to implement the NPDES
Stormwater Program: 3. Consensus design manuals such as manuals of practice
• Stormwater controls designed for peak discharge on stormwater design developed by ASCE and the Water
control Environment Federation (ASCE and WEF, 1992 and
• Stormwater controls designed for water quality control 1998) have been used to determine various management
• Stormwater controls designed for flood control strategies.
• Specified depths of runoff for water quality control
• Percent reduction of loadings for water quality control Links to on-line manuals and guidance documents are
(primarily solids and sediments) provided on EPA’s website at
• Numeric effluent limits for water quality control waterscience/guide/construction/.

State Erosion Control Handbooks Available on the Missouri

Internet Protecting Water Quality: A Construction Site Water
Quality Field Guide
Alabama Handbook for Erosion Control
New Hampshire
Managing Storm Water as a Valuable Resource
California Storm Water BMP Construction Handbook New Jersey
Revised Manual for New Jersey: BMPs for Control of
Colorado Nonpoint Source Pollution from Storm Water
Denver Urban Drainage Criteria Manual
New York
New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual
Delaware Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
New York State Standards and Specifications for Erosion
Florida and Sediment Control
Florida Development Manual: A Guide to Sound Land and
Water Management escstandards/index.html
Storm Water Program—Factsheets, Forms, & Check Lists
Georgia Storm Water Management Manual
atertaskforce.html Oregon
Idaho BMPs & Storm Water Pollution Control Plan
Catalog of Storm Water BMPs for Idaho Cities & Counties Pennsylvania
index.asp Handbook of BMPs for Developing Areas
State of Louisiana Nonpoint Source Pollution Management South Carolina
Program—Construction Sediment, Erosion, & Storm Water Management
Maryland Stormwater Design Manual
Tennessee Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
Knoxville BMP Manual
Maryland Storm Water Design Manual, Volumes I & II
SedimentandStormwater/stormwater_design/index.asp Texas
Texas Nonpoint Sourcebook—Interactive BMP Selector
Erosion and Sedimentation Control Guidelines: a guide for
planners, designers, and municipal officials Utah UPDES Storm Water Home Page
Protecting Water Quality in Urban Areas: A Manual Virginia Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
Urban Small Sites Best Management Practice Manual Northern Virginia BMP Handbook: A Guide to Planning and Designing BMPs in Northern Virginia
Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 27

Washington practices. The intent of erosion and sediment control

Storm Water Management Manual for Western Washington programs should be to minimize the potential for off-site impacts by reducing the aerial extent and time duration of
html#copies impacts.
In defining how a program can minimize impacts, a dual
King County Storm Water Pollution Control Manual
strategy is recommended. The program should seek first to
prevent erosion from occurring and also to seek to reduce the
Wisconsin associated sedimentation. Prevention practices include
Wisconsin Construction Site Best Management Practice sequencing construction to reduce areas of disturbance,
Handbook conducting land disturbance during the dry season, establishing limits on areas of disturbance during the wet
constrforms.htm#wicon season, and timely stabilizing (temporary or permanent)
disturbed areas. Reduction of impacts would follow using
BASIC CONTROL OF CONSTRUCTION traditional erosion and sediment control practices such as
SITE RUNOFF stabilized construction entrances, silt fences, diversion dikes,
sediment traps and basins. Reduction practices are most
One of the main problems associated with the control of effective at removing coarser sediments, while preventive
construction site runoff is that the actual monitored field practices are more effective at controlling silt or clay
performance of most construction site erosion controls has particles by preventing their initial movement. In summary, a
been disappointedly low. Excellent filter fence installations basic goal of erosion and sediment control programs should
(well maintained and well constructed) provide only about be to minimize off-site impacts by following a philosophy of
50% control, at a maximum. Typical monitored performance first preventing erosion and then maximizing control of
has shown negligible benefits due to installation and sedimentation on-site.
maintenance problems. The use of rock berms in channels Once the program’s goal is determined, it is necessary to
are more robust, but still provide less than about 25% establish an achievable performance standard which will
suspended solids control. Sediment ponds can be designed to form the basis for the development of design criteria for the
provide good control (>50%) of suspended solids, but they various erosion and sediment control practices to be used.
would have to be very large (about 2% of the drainage area) Performance standards can be either technology based or
to provide significant removal of fine sediment. The effluent water-quality based. Technology-based standards are the
turbidity from sediment control ponds at construction sites is most common. They typically are related to a reduction in the
still high, unless additional controls are used. level of suspended solids (e.g. 80%) leaving a site, or may be
Prevention is therefore the best and typically least expressed in terms of retaining sediment on-site. The former
expensive control solution. Typical preventative measures standard is appropriate because there is a good
include: understanding of the processes involved in the reduction of
suspended solids. The latter performance standard addresses
1. Divert flows around exposed soils
potential adverse impacts beyond water quality such as
2. Schedule site activities to minimize amount of exposed public safety concerns associated with tracking sediments
soil onto public streets or sediment clogging of runoff
3. Use temporary mulch conveyances which can increase flooding. Water
4. Use erosion control blankets in sensitive areas quality-based standards often are a “backstop” since most
(concentrated flow channels, steep slopes) environmental laws prohibit violations of water quality
standards. A common water-quality-based standard, for
Basic Goals and Performance Standards for example, would be a requirement that discharges may not
Erosion and Sediment Control increase turbidity, measured in NTU, above background
conditions by more than a specified amount (such as 50
The most common goal of jurisdictions implementing an NTU).
erosion and sediment control program is protection of public
safety, water quality, or other aquatic related resources such Design Criteria
as habitat or fisheries. A more realistic goal is minimization,
“to the extent practical,” of off-site impacts. That is because, Once a performance standard has been established, then
even with the best designs, the process of site development design criteria need to be developed for the individual
with its associated earth disturbance can still create adverse erosion and sediment controls. By providing both
downstream impacts because of the limited effectiveness of performance standards and design criteria, site planners and
current erosion and sediment practices, especially when engineers can select those practices which will work best on
severe storm events exceed the design capacity for these a given site because of its specific soils, topography, slopes,

Diversion of Flows

A small berm and sodded swale divert flows from newly graded and
mulched hillside.

A diversion downslope pipe at a highway construction site (during

installation) to prevent erosive flows from damaging an unprotected slope.
Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 29

Minimize Exposed Soil

Most construction sites are characterized with large expanses of Large unprotected area at new commercial site.
unprotected soil, even after utilities are installed (WI DNR photo).

Unprotected newly graded area at highway expansion project.

Temporary Mulch (Minimal tacking and no netting to retain material on site for short periods)

Spray mulch blown to protect exposed soil. Complete ground cover after hydro-mulching.

Erosion Control Blankets

Vegetation starting to grow through erosion control netting at highway

construction site.

Stored erosion mats at construction site.

Newly installed erosion control mats on steep highway embankment.

Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 31

geology, and hydrology characteristics. Design criteria need interest. These activities typically are of an emergency
to be specified for both prevention and reduction practices. nature, such as those required after an extreme storm event
Specific design criteria should be included for at least two which creates situations needing an immediate response.
prevention practices. First, a maximum area of disturbance at Such activities must still implement erosion and sediment
any one time should be specified, with a variance provision controls, but implementation should be based on
for specific activities which cannot meet that limitation. requirements defined on-site. Alternatively, a special
Second, a maximum time frame for either temporary or process can be established which calls for submission and
permanent site stabilization upon cessation of grading needs review of plans within an appropriate time frame.
to be set. As an example, Delaware’s program limits site
disturbance at any one time to a maximum of 20 acres and Design Assistance and Guidance
requires site stabilization within 14 days when an area is not
being actively worked. The specific design criteria for To maximize program effectiveness and the proper use,
prevention practices will depend largely on local rainfall design, construction, and maintenance of erosion and
patterns and associated runoff characteristics. If there is a sediment controls, it is essential to have a design guidance
defined seasonality to the rainfall, the criteria may be document available for designers, developers, and
primarily directed towards activities conducted during the contractors. Most areas of the country already have one
wetter seasons. This approach is used by the Puget Sound available. To a large extent, the manuals are very similar to
Water Quality Management Program which establishes one another, either based on the early Virginia manual, or the
seasonal limits for disturbed areas. manuals prepared by the SCS (NRCS) for various states. In
Design criteria for reduction practices often are based on some cases, special local practices have been developed and
sizing criteria, either in terms of contributing drainage area the manuals are more unique. For each practice, the design
or storage volume, or both. Most programs establish a manual should specify the purpose, applicability in different
minimum size for sediment traps and basins, such as 1,800 site situations, sizing, materials, construction standards,
cubic feet per acre of drainage area. This volume figure was maintenance needs, and operational information. The
developed years ago by the Natural Resources Conservation manual must include both structural and vegetative practices.
Service (then the Soil Conservation Service) to achieve a Many of the structural practices, except for storage volumes
70% reduction in suspended solids on a Piedmont hydrologic of sediment traps or basins, tend to have universal design
group C soil. This volume was then used as a design criteria criteria. Vegetative practices must include local
as a minimum standard for site design. considerations such as the types of plant materials and how
they are best established and maintained. It is critical in all
Exemptions and Waivers locales that design manuals consider local conditions,
especially rain characteristics, typical soils, and topography.
If the erosion and sediment control program is integrated This hinders the simple transfer of design manuals
with the stormwater management program, the exemptions throughout the country.
and waivers should be consistent, but not necessarily
identical. There are activities which, due to their limited size, Checklists to Ensure Plan Completeness and to
should not be required to provide permanent stormwater Aid in Regulatory Review
management, but which should be required to implement
erosion and sediment control. An example is single family Some regulatory agencies responsible for erosion and
home construction that is not part of a larger development. sediment control plan review have developed a series of
The most common and simplest approach for establishing checklists to aid in quickly determining whether the required
exemptions and waivers is based on the amount of disturbed plan components were included in the submitted package.
area. This approach is easily implemented since determining Pennsylvania has developed two checklists to fulfill this
the amount of disturbed area is simple. The size of the purpose. Use of these checklists in plan development is
disturbed area for an exempt activity will depend to some useful to the designer to ensure that he/she has addressed the
extent on local conditions such as rainfall patterns, soil types, pertinent issues and demonstrated how the plan has met the
and topography. It is recommended that the threshold size of regulations. According to the PA Department of
disturbance be relatively small, such as 5,000 square feet. Environmental Protection (DEP), “the Complete Plan
This emphasizes that erosion and sediment control are Checklist is used to determine if an erosion and sediment
integral components of site development. It also helps to control plan includes all required elements. This checklist is
minimize potential cumulative impacts if many construction intended to serve as a tool to determine whether an erosion
projects are on-going within a watershed. and sediment control plan addresses all eleven items required
There also has to be some flexibility for unforeseen types by Section 102.4(b)(5). It need not be included as part of the
of activities for which pre-construction review and approval plan submittal.”
would be an undue hardship and not be in the best public The E&S Control Plan Technical Review Checklist is

Figure 1.6. Complete Plan Checklist for Pennsylvania Erosion and Sediment Control Plans (PA DEP 2000).
Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 33

Figure 1.6 (continued). Complete Plan Checklist for Pennsylvania Erosion and Sediment Control Plans (PA DEP 2000).

Figure 1.7. Pennsylvania E&S Control Plan Technical Review Checklist (PA DEP 2000).
Basic Control of Construction Site Runoff 35

Figure 1.7 (continued). Pennsylvania E&S Control Plan Technical Review Checklist (PA DEP 2000).

Figure 1.7 (continued). Pennsylvania E&S Control Plan Technical Review Checklist (PA DEP 2000).
Example Construction Site Erosion Control and Stormwater Management Requirements 37

used to determine the technical adequacy of an erosion and Construction site monitoring has also revealed that
sediment control plan. “This checklist is to be used by the sediment delivery (the amount of sediment leaving its source
reviewing agency to ensure the erosion and sediment control compared to the amount entering the receiving water) is very
plan meets the requirements of Chapter 102 and the close to 100 percent for typical urban construction sites in
standards of the Department’s Erosion and Sediment developing areas. Watershed monitoring has shown that
Pollution Control Program Manual, No. 363-2134-008 almost all of the sediment from construction areas that
(January 2000), as amended and updated. It should not be disturb more than about ten percent of a watershed, and about
included as part of the plan submittal.” one-half of that from construction areas that disturb less than
ten percent, reach the receiving water. These very large
EXAMPLE CONSTRUCTION SITE EROSION delivery ratios probably result from the normal practice of
CONTROL AND STORMWATER MANAGEMENT installing the storm drainage system during the initial
REQUIREMENTS1 construction phase, because sediment travels much more
efficiently in conventional storm drainage systems than in
Rationale and Purpose natural sheetflows or in small tributary streams. The early
installation of storm drainage systems also apparently makes
The objective of an effective construction site erosion sediment yield and delivery insensitive to site slope. An
control and stormwater management ordinance is to protect erosion control ordinance, therefore, should not exempt
the local water resources from water quality degradation construction projects on the basis of percentage disturbance
from many potential sources and activities. Specific of a watershed, or construction site slope.
provisions of an ordinance may: Vague regulations and general criteria regarding erosion
• Provide for treatment practices which promote the control sometimes found in many erosion control ordinances
public health, safety, and general welfare, and should be replaced by criteria that specify when and where
• Restrict or prohibit discharges which are dangerous to, specific control practices are to be used. Such guidance
or potentially may increase pollution of, the watershed should help site engineers as well as site plan reviewers and
and public water supply. inspectors. In addition, specific criteria should promote more
uniform construction site erosion control throughout the
Standards and Specifications for Construction watershed.
Site Erosion Control The main purpose of construction site erosion control
requirements is to prevent sediment and other pollutants
Actual monitoring of construction sites (especially from leaving construction sites. The secondary purpose is to
research on the yields and delivery of construction site significantly reduce the quantity of any “escaped” material
erosion material) has shown that the type of development that reaches receiving waters. Past research projects that
(i.e., final land use) has very little effect on erosion rates. have characterized construction erosion discharges and
Instead, construction site erosion losses vary with the transport processes have concluded that very large amounts
amount of land disturbed, the duration of that disturbance, of sediment, phosphorus, and other pollutants erode from
and the presence of effective erosion controls. A watershed most construction sites. Sediment yields from uncontrolled
protection ordinance, therefore, should require erosion construction sites may, for example, be several hundred to
control permits for all types of development and exclude several thousand times the annual sediment yields from most
only small construction projects (such as those disturbing developed urban areas. Small areas of active construction
less than 2,000 square feet, or involving excavation and/or may therefore contribute much more pollution to receiving
filling of less than 500 cubic yards of material). Thus, waters than entire cities or surrounding agricultural lands. By
projects such as home additions or household gardening requiring reasonable and effective construction site erosion
activities will generally be too small to require permits, while controls for most developing areas, discharges of many
construction of most individual homes and all larger types of pollutants to receiving waters can be greatly reduced.
development would require permits. Even small land
disturbing activities should have erosion controls, even if Site Erosion Control Requirements
formal permits are not required. In most cases, these small
projects would only require simple good housekeeping Site erosion control requires three main elements to
provisions, good drainage, simple mulching, and a quick protect downslope property, the storm drainage system, and
project period. receiving waters. The first main element involves diverting

This discussion (and much of the preceding material) is based on material and experiences from a number of individuals and agencies besides the authors. Earl Shaver, currently of the
Auckland Regional Council, New Zealand, was helpful in the preparation of some of the material reflecting his many years of experience in Maryland and Delaware. While working at
the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bob Pitt was greatly influenced by his colleagues while preparing early versions of the WI model ordinance and later by
environmental attorneys and other reviewers when he prepared an early version of the watershed protection ordinance for the Cahaba River watershed in Jefferson County, AL. These
discussions therefore reflect a compilation of ideas that are presented to aid local agencies in meeting NPDES erosion control requirements.

scheduling problems. Unfortunately, many disturbed sites

are commonly left inactive for periods much longer than 14
days, resulting in very high probabilities of severely erosive
rains occurring when sites are left disturbed and inactive.
Stabilization of these inactive but disturbed areas is needed,
therefore, to prevent site erosion, to eliminate the cost of
regrading severely eroded areas, and to protect off-site areas
from erosion products. In many cases, better timing of
grading operations could also reduce the time an area is left
The third site erosion control element requires downslope
controls to minimize the quantity of erosion products that
leave the site. This element is necessary because significant
exposed land will always occur at construction sites.
Moreover, plantings can require several weeks to become
established and capable of reducing erosion. For small sites
(less than 10 acres) with no channelized flow, filter fences or
other perimeter controls are probably adequate. These
controls are fragile, however, and suitable only for
sheetflows at low velocities. When larger flows can be
expected, sedimentation basins are needed because high
flow rates can quickly destroy filter fences.
Downslope controls alone cannot offer adequate
protection from severely erosive rains that may occur at any
time during the construction season. Because such rains
could completely and quickly wash out a filter fence or silt-in
a sedimentation basin if a site had no other protection,
The lack of an appropriate diversion structure to safely drain water down
downslope controls should be installed in conjunction with
sensitive slopes can cause much damage and sediment loss.
above-site flow diversions and site mulching or plantings.
Together, these three erosion control elements can
water from upslope, undisturbed areas so that it does not flow significantly reduce potential erosion damage, which can be
across disturbed land. This preventive measure can reduce very expensive, if not impossible, to remedy once it has
the volume of water and energy available to transport soil occurred. Nevertheless, occasional severe rains occurring at
exposed by construction activity. the “wrong time” in relation to site protection requirements
The second element requires mulching disturbed ground may still cause downstream damage. The intent of an erosion
at time intervals that permit necessary grading but that also control ordinance is to give site planners and engineers as
reduces erosion losses during intense rains. Of course, much flexibility as possible in applying required
careful planning to decrease the amount of land disturbed at specifications and standards to proposed projects. Although
one time and to speed the entire construction process is
assumed. Site erosion control, on-site mulch, or temporary
vegetation is needed in order to control erosion from
disturbed sites during periods of site inactivity or when the
erosion potential is very high. In some areas of the country,
storms having high erosion potential can occur at any time,
so immediate on-site mulching is a very important aspect of
effective construction site erosion control programs. A risk
assessment of the erosion potential of Jefferson County, AL,
rains showed that rains occur about every three days.
Although about three rains could occur during any seven-day
period, the probability of a rain with high erosion potential
during any seven-day period is relatively low. The
probability increases with longer periods of time, however.
A time limit of 14 days of no activity before mulching is
required on portions of the construction site is a compromise Unattended severely eroded land causes great amounts of sediment loss and
between potential erosion damage and construction requires site regrading.
Example Construction Site Erosion Control and Stormwater Management Requirements 39

Filter Fencing for Small Drainage Areas

Sediment Ponds for Larger Construction Areas


construction site regulations may appear restrictive, they

should allow many choices about matters such as location of
storage piles, mulch types, timing of grading, etc.

Summary of Erosion Control Requirements

As included in many regulations, including the proposed

EPA Effluent Guidelines for the Construction and
Development Industrial Category (June 24, 2003 Federal
Register, 40 CFR Parts 122 and 450), all erosion control
efforts should consist of three basic elements:
1. Divert upslope water around the disturbed site, or pass it
through the site along a protected channel,
2. Expose disturbed areas for the shortest possible time
Barrier fencing setting outer limits of disturbance at construction site.
(allowing a maximum time limit of about 14 days for
inactive disturbed land before required protection),
either through improved construction phase scheduling,
site entranceways have to be graveled, and travel is
or through temporary or permanent mulching, and
restricted off these graveled areas),
3. Treat any runoff water before it leaves the site (by • Treat dewatering wastes before discharge,
perimeter filter fencing, or if a “large” site, with a • Protect storm drain inlets (such as with straw bale or
sediment pond). filter fence barriers),
• Locate material storage piles away from storm drain
This triple approach is needed because of the potential
inlets (by at least 50 feet), and if left for a long time
failure of any one system due to random rains that may cause
(greater than 14 days), then they must be covered,
severe site and erosion damage. As an example, if a
mulched, or surrounded with a perimeter filter fence or
temporary seeding is not fully established, a moderate rain of
straw bale barrier,
greater than 0.5 inch (which may occur about every 10 days
• Direct all on-site concentrated runoff (especially down
in the Birmingham, AL, area) can easily wash it away. In
steep slopes) along protected channels, or in flexible
addition, special considerations are also necessary, such as
down drains,
the following examples:
• Require contractor to inspect all erosion controls on the
• Construction wastes (do not allow their burial on the site and make necessary repairs at least weekly and
site), after large rains (greater than about 0.5 inch),
• Tracking restrictions (all main site roads, which have • Perform construction vehicle maintenance in special
greater than about 25 vehicles per day traffic, and all protected areas.

Preventative measures and “good housekeeping” controls should also be used at construction sites.

Truck being cleaned as it leaves construction site for public right-of-way. Vehicle being cleaned as it leaves a construction site to prevent debris from
affecting pubic roads.
Need for Adequate Design and Inspection 41

NEED FOR ADEQUATE DESIGN AND INSPECTION maintenance. These devices are often reluctantly installed
and then ignored. If control devices are properly constructed,
Adequate design specifications, especially those based on but not properly or frequently maintained, very little benefit
local experience, can minimize potential construction site may be expected. Newly installed devices will perform as
erosion problems. Construction site erosion controls may fail initially expected until their “capacity” is exceeded. Filter
for several reasons. Unusual rains that exceed the design fences, for example, should be maintained before the
capacities of even correctly constructed and maintained material that accumulates behind them becomes excessive.
control facilities may cause their failure. Most construction More importantly, the integrity of the fence also needs to be
erosion controls are relatively fragile and cannot survive checked frequently. Many filter fences at construction sites
large rains. However, a wet detention basin installed early are undermined or bypassed because of large flows or large
during the construction period will act as a good sediment sediment accumulations. Sedimentation basins, silt traps,
trap during a wide range of rains. In-stream detention catchbasins, etc., also need to be cleaned frequently. The
facilities that receive large amounts of runoff from above a cleaning frequency of these devices located in areas
construction project can be easily damaged during large undergoing construction can be quite high because of the
rains. The basin must be cleaned (dredged) often during very large discharges of sediment from construction sites.
construction and after final landscaping, for the construction Rill or gully erosion must be corrected immediately when
period can produce as much sediment as many years of first observed. Similarly, mulched or planted areas need
“normal” urban runoff. Large rains can also damage filter frequent inspections and repairs before large amounts of
fences and other barriers and can severely erode culverts and material are lost. Proper plan reviews and adequate
waterway diversions. Failed controls are not only unable to inspections by administrative officials can prevent many of
reduce expected large amounts of erosion materials during the problems caused by improper location, construction, and
severe rains but also may discharge previously retained maintenance of construction erosion and stormwater control
sediment. devices.
Obviously, downslope controls (filter fences and sediment
ponds) must be installed first, followed by upslope Inspection During Construction2
diversions and then any on-site channel protection measures.
Construction limit barriers may also need to be installed. During construction, inspections need to be made of both
Only when these controls are suitably installed should actual erosion and sediment controls and stormwater management
construction begin. facilities. Erosion and sediment controls must be inspected
Improperly located, designed, constructed, or maintained periodically throughout the construction process, especially
control devices produce little benefit. A common example of after storms. Stormwater management systems need to be
a poor location for a control device is the placement of filter inspected at critical times during construction of the
fences in established waterways that drain large areas. Filter individual practices.
fences slow down water passing through them and create Inspection frequency needs to be flexible, corresponding
small detention areas. Particles then settle from the ponded to shifts in the intensity of activity occurring at the site. When
water. They can be designed as small wet detention basins, active construction is occurring, erosion and sediment
based on their allowable water seepage rates (outfall control inspections should be conducted on a specified,
velocities), and not as filtration devices. They are supposed appropriate frequency. When work on the site stops
to be used to control shallow sheetflows. When placed in temporarily, inspections should be done periodically to
channels draining areas that are too large, backed up water assure that erosion and sediment controls are being
may topple the filter fence, or the stream may increase in maintained and still working, and to ensure that work has not
elevation and collapse the fencing, or the water may flow resumed. Ideally, inspections should be done at a specified
around the filter fence edges. Similar problems exist when regular time interval and after significant storm events. This
straw bales are placed in large waterways. These devices are allows any changes in site conditions to be observed, and
best used to control sheetflows before they enter the drainage ensures that erosion and sediment controls are still
channels. If large drainage channels cannot be diverted and functioning as designed and approved. It is recommended
must pass through a project, filter fencing must be placed that inspections be conducted by a public agency
appropriately to control sheetflows entering the channel. representative at least once every two weeks.
Well designed wet detention (sediment) basins may also be Inspection staff resources typically are insufficient to visit
needed below the site. all active construction sites as frequently as needed. An
Probably the most common reason for failure of implementation strategy decision must be made whether to
construction site erosion control devices is inadequate visit fewer sites and completely follow the inspection

Earl Shaver, Auckland Regional Council, New Zealand, prepared the following comments on construction site inspections based on his many years of developing and managing
erosion and sediment control programs in Maryland and Delaware.

Inspections should require replacement of damaged mulch, or preferably

the use of appropriate materials that are suitable for the site conditions.

Improper use of erosion controls must be corrected before excessive

damage occurs (J. Voorhees photo).

Inspections must require replacement of damaged erosion controls (J. Inspections must enforce needed maintenance before failure. This silt
Voorhees photo). fence is retaining massive amounts of sediment and is near its limit and
needs to be maintained soon.
Need for Adequate Design and Inspection 43

Inspections need to monitor sediment accumulations. This dry sediment Lack of supplemental irrigation jeopardizes sodded areas.
pond is almost full of accumulated material.

Poorly covered mulched areas need to be remulched.

Excessive tracking due to insufficient or non-maintained graveled access Damaged erosion controls need to be repaired or replaced as soon as
needs to be corrected. possible.

Necessary Enforcement and Education

Needed enforcement actions need to be obvious (WI DNR photo). Education of erosion control contractors is mandatory (Maryland DNR,
Earl Shaver, photo). These straw bales are located on the dashes on the site
erosion control plan map designating the site boundary controls.

procedures, or to conduct less comprehensive inspections at form to the contractor, developer, and appropriate inspection
more sites. It is recommended that the inspection procedures agency. Having a “certified” private inspector on the site
be followed completely at sites which are inspected. weekly can reduce the inspection frequency by the
Inspections need to be prioritized based on potential impacts, appropriate agency.
helping to assure compliance on tougher sites. Following the To improve the effectiveness of inspections, it is
prescribed procedures also is important should legal important to establish standard, well-documented inspection
enforcement action become necessary. procedures. These procedures should specify in detail the
Inspectors should always attempt to contact an on-site actions an inspector conducts at a site, set out options and list
individual who is responsible for the site grading activities. steps to be taken when site compliance is inadequate, and
The contractor should be aware that the inspector is visiting establish an appeals process, should the inspector and with
the site even if the contractor does not accompany the suitable developer disagree on matters. The procedures need
inspector. This improves the dialogue that is important to be developed in conjunction with available legal
between the inspector and contractor. Highly visible authorities and with suitable penalty provisions. Inspection
inspections reinforce the commitment and importance a of the stormwater management system during construction
jurisdiction places on effective implementation of site typically is not done on a regular schedule, but at certain
controls. By knowing that the site will be inspected stages of construction. For each type of construction site
periodically, contractors are more likely to be aware of, and control practice, there are certain stages of construction
meet, site control responsibilities. where inspection is essential to assure proper construction
After completing the inspection, the inspector should and performance.
leave an inspection report with the contractor, and should
send a copy to the developer and possibly the property IMPORTANT INTERNET LINKS
owner. The report should serve as a site report card, clearly
documenting proper installation and maintenance of site The following are the main Internet links referenced in this
controls as well as any deficiencies in site control chapter and provide much additional information, especially
implementation. If there is a violation, the inspection report concerning the federal programs and resources. These are
initiates a “paper trail” which is integral to successful likely to change with time, but current linkage addresses can
enforcement actions. usually be found by using an Internet search tool.
It is unlikely that public agencies will ever have enough
inspectors, simply due to the large number of active EPA Office of Wastewater Management (OWM)
construction projects at any time and to the resource information:
limitations of stormwater management programs. A creative
innovation to solve this problem is a partnership between the EPA Stormwater Program information, Final Phase II
stormwater management program agency and the NPDES rule:
development community. This concept is being used in
Delaware where the contractor or developer supplies their
own inspectors. This person must attend and pass a State Final Federal Register notice and supporting materials
sponsored training course for inspectors. They are then for Effluent Limits Guidelines for Erosion and Sediment
responsible for inspecting the site at least once a week, control:
completing an inspection form, and providing a copy of the
Problems 45

EPA Fact Sheet Series: Water Pollution in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1975". Technical Report No.
21. Waukesha, Wisconsin, 1978.
USEPA. Development Document for Proposed Effluent Guidelines and
EPA stormwater regulations: Standards for the Construction and Development Category. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water (4303T).
EPA-821-R-02-007. Washington, DC 20460 (
EPA information on discharges from construction waterscience/guide/). June 2002.
activities: USEPA. “Effluent guidelines for the construction and development industrial category.” Federal Register, 40 CFR Parts 122 and 450. June
24, 2003.
EPA National Menu of stormwater, and erosion and USEPA. Construction and Development Fact Sheet: Final Action—
sediment control practices: Selection of Non-Regulatory Option, EPA 821-F-04-001; March 2004. Virginia. Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook. Second Edition.
Division of Soil and Water Conservation. Virginia Dept. of Conservation
EPA links to on-line manuals and guidance documents: and Historic Resources. Richmond, Virginia. 1980. Willett, G. Urban Erosion, in National Conference on Urban Erosion and
Sediment Control; Institutions and Technology. EPA 905/9-80-002. U.S.
State Water Pollution Control Program Grants Program Environmental Protection Agency, 1980.
Stormwater website PROBLEMS
1. Conduct a search in a newspaper database of articles
Electronic Notice of Intent System related to sediment and erosion problems in your area (limit this search to the last three years). If no local
articles are found, broaden your search to the state or
National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint
national region. What percentage of these articles
Source Pollution from Urban Areas
focused on agricultural erosion and what percentage
were focused on erosion during land development for
Smart Growth Program urban uses? 2. Determine which state agency is responsible for
Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program sediment and erosion control. Review that agency’s website relating to sediment and erosion control. Is the
authority for plan review and enforcement retained at the
The Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center state level? County level? Local level?
( contains information and links to a
wide variety of information, including state regulatory 3. Determine which public agency is responsible for plan
programs and manuals for sediment and erosion controls. review. Find out how to obtain a copy of an approved
erosion and sediment control plan (do not ask for one
REFERENCES unless requested by the instructor). Find out if the plans
are available for review in the office of the review
ASCE and WEF. Design and Construction of Urban Stormwater agency. Who is responsible for writing project-specific
Management Systems. 1992. erosion and sediment control plans?
ASCE and WEF. Urban Runoff Quality Management. ASCE Manual and 4. Determine if the state and local authority’s sediment
Report on Engineering Practice No. 87; WEF Manual of Practice No. 23.
American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA. Water Environment
erosion control regulations are available on the Internet.
Federation, Alexandria, VA. and http://www.wef. If not, find out where you can locate them.
org, 1988. 5. Find three construction sites near your home, school or
Chesters, G., J. Konrad and G. Simsiman. “Menomonee River Pilot office. Answer the following questions regarding each
Watershed Study- Summary and Recommendations”,
EPA-905/4-79-029. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago,
Ill., 1979. a. Are there noticeable erosion problem on the site?
Madison, F., J. Arts, S. Berkowitz, E. Salmon, and B. Hagman. “Washington b. Are these resulting in off-site problems?
County Project”. EPA 905/9-80-003, U.S. Environmental Protection c. Do the perimeter erosion-control measures look well
Agency, Chicago, Ill., 1979. maintained? (Note: Do not enter any part of an active
Nelson, J. Characterizing Erosion Processes and Sediment Yields on job site without the owner’s permission, preferably in
Construction Sites. MSCE thesis. Dept. of Civil and Environmental
Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham. 94 pgs. 1996.
Novotny, V. and G. Chesters. Handbook of Nonpoint Pollution Sources and
d. If they are in the early stages of construction, were the
Management. Van Norstrand Reinhold Company, New York, 1981. minimum controls followed in setting up the work
Southeastern Wisconsin Planning Commission (SEWRPC). “Sources of area for construction?

Appendix 1A State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater

TABLE 1A.4. State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater (USEPA, 2002).
Minimum Depth or Runoff
Disturbed Area Numeric standard or Storm Return Maximum Allowed
Limit for Permit or Pollutant Frequency to Treat for Denuded Acreage
Coverage Reduction Water Quality or Soil Stabilization Visual Inspection
Geographic Area Name (square feet)1 Requirement Management (per acre) Requirement Frequency Notes
Clean Water Act NPDES 43,560 After 0.5 Inch rainfall Phase II compliance date is March 10, 2003.
Storm Water program for and every 14 days
Phase I and Phase II MS4s
CZARA 5,000 Must prepare and implement an dapproved
erosion and sediment control plan or similar
document that contains erosion and
sediment control provisions.
Alabama 217,800 Turbidity <50 NTU
Alaska 217,800 TSS > 20 microns 2 year/6 hour After 0.5 inch rainfall Inspector mus be qualified personnel
and every 7 days provided by the discharger.
Arizona 217,800
Arkansas 217,800 10 year/24 hour Every 7 days Developers must submit erosion and
sediment control plan and storm water
pollution prevention plan before filing a
notice of intent. Sites 10 acres or more need
temporary or permanent sediment basin.
Sites less than 10 acres need sediment traps
and silt fences
California 217,800 2 year/24 hour After 0.5 inch rainfall Inspections will be performed before
anticipated storm events, during extended
storm events, and after storm events, and
once each 24-hour period during extended
storm events to identify BMP effectiveness
and implement repairs or design changes as
soon as feasible depending on field
conditions. Discharger is also responsible for
inspecting and cleaning all public and private
roads for sediment. Construction activities
that fall under the jurisdiction of the California
Department of Transportation (CALTRANS)
have separate permit and regulations.
Colorado 217,800 Any percipitation or Storm water management plan must be

snowmelt event that submitted to state for a 10 day review, as

causes erosion and well as be retained on site.
every 14 days
Connecticut 217,800 80% TSS reduction
Delaware 5,000 80% TSS reduction 0.5 inch
Florida, DEP, Northern 217,800 80% TSS reduction 0.5 inch* *>100 acres, 1 inch rainfall, <100 acres, 0.5
Discrict (only applies in NW inch rainfall.
TABLE 1A.4 (continued). State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater (USEPA, 2002).
Minimum Depth or Runoff
Disturbed Area Numeric standard or Storm Return Maximum Allowed
Limit for Permit or Pollutant Frequency to Treat for Denuded Acreage
Geographic Area Coverage Reduction Water Quality or Soil Stabilization Visual Inspection
Name (square feet)1 Requirement Management (per acre) Requirement Frequency Notes
Florida, South Florida 435,600 1 inch
Water Management
District (General,
Standard General,
Noticed General and
Individual Permits)
Florida, Southwest 217,800 0.5 inch
Florida Water
Management District
Florida, St. Johns River 217,800 Turbidity <29 NTU
Water Management
Florida, Suwannee River 43,560 80% TSS reduction 1 inch
Water Management
Georgia 47,916 Turbidity = 10–25 25 year/24 hour *<25 nephelometric turbidity units for waters
NTU* supporting warm water fisheries, or <10 nephelometric
turbidity units for waters classified as trout waters.
Hawaii 217,800 After 0.5 inch rainfall
and every 7 days
during dry season,
every day during
rainy season
Idaho 217,800 After 0.5 inch rainfall
and every 14 days
Illinois 217,800 3,600 cubic feet per acre Every 7 days
Indiana 217,800 Every 7 calendar
days and within 24
hours of 0.5 inch of
Iowa 217,800 80% TSS reduction Every 7 days
Kansas 217,800 At least once per
Appendix 1A State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater

Kentucky 217,800 Goal of 80% TSS

(compared to
Louisiana 217,800
Maine 217,800 40–80% TSS 2 year
Maryland 5,000 80% TSS reduction* 2 year/24 hour *Based on the average annual TSS loading from all
storms less than or equal to the 2 year/24 hour storm.

TABLE 1A.4 (continued). State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater (USEPA, 2002).
Minimum Depth or Runoff
Disturbed Area Numeric standard or Storm Return Maximum Allowed
Limit for Permit or Pollutant Frequency to Treat for Denuded Acreage
Geographic Area Coverage Reduction Water Quality or Soil Stabilization Visual Inspection
Name (square feet)1 Requirement Management (per acre) Requirement Frequency Notes
Montana 217,800 2 year/24 hour After 0.5 inch rainfall Dischargers must submit with the state application form
and every 7 days a stormwater erosion control plan (SWECP) that
resembles EPA's construction site SWPP. Permit
coverage begins only when Montana DEQ reviews and
approves SWECP. Must also inspect everyday during
prolonged precipitation or snowmelt periods. A
registered PE must prepare the ESC plan if site is
greater than 20 acres. Also regulate down to 1 acre if
construction site within 100 feet of a surface water
body. Montana has a sediment and erosion control
guidance manual that lists standard use BMPs. If other
BMPs are used, they need to be submitted with ESC
plan to the state for approval. For slopes steeper than
3:1 and greater than 5 vertical feet, surface roughening
is required. Filter fences should be used on drainage
areas >1 acre; sediment traps should only be used on
drainage areas >3 acres; and temporary sediment
ponds should only be used on drainage areas >10
North Carolina 43,560 Y 20 acres total Every 7 days
disturbance at any
given time for areas
discharging to high
quality waters
Nebraska 217,800 Once a month
Nevada 217,800
New Hampshire 100,000
New Jersey 5,000
New Mexico 217,800 Y
New York 217,800 0.5 inch
North Dakota 217,800 Y
Ohio 217,800
Oklahoma 217,800 3,600 cubic feet per acre Y A vegetated buffer zone of at least 100 ft must be
retained or successfully established between the area

dusturbed during construction and all perennial or

intermittent streams on or adjacent to the construction
site. A vegetated buffer zone at least 50 ft wide must be
retained or established between the area disturbed
during construction and all ephemeral streams or
drainages. Treatment volume is the lesser of 3,600 ft3 or
the runoff volume of a 2 year/24 hour storm.
TABLE 1A.4 (continued). State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater (USEPA, 2002).
Minimum Depth or Runoff
Disturbed Area Numeric standard or Storm Return Maximum Allowed
Limit for Permit or Pollutant Frequency to Treat for Denuded Acreage
Geographic Area Coverage Reduction Water Quality or Soil Stabilization Visual Inspection
Name (square feet)1 Requirement Management (per acre) Requirement Frequency Notes
Oregon 217,800 Every 7 days, and If site is >20 acres, erosion and sediment control plan
daily during periods must be prepared by a Professional Engineer, or
of stormwater runoff Registered Landscape Architect, or Certified
and snowmelt Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, and plan
runoff, only every 14 must be submitted 90 days before construction begins.
days during periods All permitees must submit an Oregon Land Use
of 7 days or more of Compatibility Statement if they do not already have one
non-construction on file with Oregon DEQ.
Pennsylvania 217,800 5 year Y Basins should drain no quicker than 4 days and no
longer than 7 days.
Rhode Island 217,800 80–90% TSS 10 year
South Carolina 217,800 5 year
Tennessee 217,800 Y The permitee shall maintain records of checks and
Texas 217,800 3,600 cubic feet per acre
Utah 217,800 24 hour or 1 inch storm Once every 14 days, Where sites have been finally or temporarily stabilized,
event before anticipated or when runoff is unlikely due to winter conditions, or
storm events during seasonal arid periods in arid areas and
expected to cause semi-arid areas inspections shall be conducted at least
significant runoff, once every 30 days, 10 yr, 24 hr strom event for water
and within 24 hours quality is for 10 acres or greater. For areas less than 10
of the end of a storm acres, or where calculations for volume of runoff for
that is 0.5 inch or disturbed acres is not performed, a sediment basin
greater. providing 3600 cubic feet of storage per acre drained or
equivalent control measures shall be provided. 1)
Where the initiation of stabilization measures by the
14th day after construction activity temporary or
permanently cease is preclude by snow cover or frozen
ground conditions, stabilization measures shall be
initiated as soon as possible. 2) In arid areas, semi-arid
Appendix 1A State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater

areas, and areas experiencing droughts where the

initiation stabilization measures by the 14th day after
construction activity has temporariliy or permanently
ceased is precluded by seasonal arid conditions,
stabilization measures shall be initiated as soon as
Vermont 217,800

TABLE 1A.4 (continued). State Regulations on the Control of Construction Phase Stormwater (USEPA, 2002).
Minimum Depth or Runoff
Disturbed Area Numeric standard or Storm Return Maximum Allowed
Limit for Permit or Pollutant Frequency to Treat for Denuded Acreage
Geographic Area Coverage Reduction Water Quality or Soil Stabilization Visual Inspection
Name (square feet)1 Requirement Management (per acre) Requirement Frequency Notes
Virginia 217,800 3,600 cubic feet per acre Y Sediment basins required for sites of 10 acres or more
(except those with final stabilization); for sites <10
acres, filter fences required but only for sideslope and
downslope boundaries of construction sites.
Washington, Large >43,560 24 hour/6month 2 days between
Parcel October 1 and April
30 (i.e., the wet
season); 7 days
between May 1 to
September 30 (dry
Washington, Small <43,560 24 hour/6month 2 days between
Parcel October 1 and April
30 (i.e., the wet
season); 7 days
between May 1 to
September 30 (dry
West Virginia 130,680 2 year Y
Wisconsin *217,800 Y
Wyoming 217,800 Turbidity <10-15 Inspect every 7
NTU days, except during
seasonal shutdowns
and during the
period following
completion of
constructin but prior
to return of the site
to "finally stabilized"
conditions and

termination of
coverage, then the
site must be
inspected every

Selection of Controls and Site Planning

INTRODUCTION two major categories, primary controls and supporting

controls, as described in Chapter 1. It is also possible to
chapter outlines some of the available guidance for categorize the controls into preventative measures (much
erosion controls for construction sites. There preferred), usually termed erosion control practices, and
are many manuals available for throughout the U.S., some treatment measures (typically not as effective), usually
have been in use for more than 25 years. One example is the termed sediment controls.
Alabama Handbook for Erosion Control, Sediment Control, Over the years, two general family “trees” of construction
and Stormwater Management on Construction Sites and Urban site erosion manuals have evolved. The State of Virginia
Areas, that was originally produced for the Alabama Soil and produced one of the earliest manuals in 1980, and is widely
Water Conservation Committee in 1993 by the SCS (now the copied by many states and local governments throughout the
NRCS). This local manual was revised in 2003 as guidance country. Another type of manual has been produced by the
for the EPA Phase II stormwater regulations (http://swcc. SCS, (now NRCS), and has been modified by them for a htm). An earlier Alabama number of states. In recent years, there also have been a
manual was prepared by the Birmingham Regional Planning number of independently-produced local manuals that
Commission as part of their “208” project in 1980: Best reflect local conditions and include some emerging
Management Practices for Controlling Sediment and Erosion procedures and techniques. These design standards for the
from Construction Activities. Chapter 1 lists many other needed practices obviously can be supplemented and many
handbooks that are available for other areas of the country. need to be modified to reflect local conditions, based on
This chapter organizes some of the major control site-specific hydrology and erosion conditions, as described
categories according to site erosion control issues that are in the later chapters of this book.
listed in the Phase II stormwater NPDES regulations that will The requirement categories are summarized in the
affect construction sites. In addition, steps are provided to following sections, along with a list of example controls that
guide a user in preparing an erosion control plan for local can be used to help meet each requirement, as referenced to
construction sites. Later chapters discuss how local rains, the SCS (NRCS) standards (as modified for New Jersey or
soils, and objectives need to be considered when designing Alabama 1993) and selected Virginia standards (as modified
the selected controls for site specific conditions. by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1994).
Also included in this chapter is Appendix 2A which lists This list is not comprehensive, but does indicate the range of
some costs for on-site erosion and sediment controls, available tools to address these issues. Many of the Phase II
summarized from Costs of Urban Nonpoint Source Water NDPES requirements are similar to these categories.
Pollution Control Measures prepared by the Southeast
Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (June 1991). Primary Construction Site Control
These costs can be multiplied by 1.6 to estimate 2005 cost Requirements
values, according to the Engineering News Record’s
Construction Site Index. Obviously, different regions of the The following discussion lists available construction site
country have different labor rates and material costs, so these controls that can be applied to different categories of site
should only be used as initial estimates. issues. The listed names are followed by the section number
in the manual referenced. Obviously, these lists are not
EXAMPLE CONSTRUCTION SITE CONTROL comprehensive, but do illustrate the diversity and number of
REQUIREMENTS practices that can be used. These practices are organized by
the different site issues that should be addressed for all
Construction site control requirements can be divided into construction sites. Typical applications would require that


each category be addressed for all construction sites, but the Riprap
specific controls need to be selected based on site-specific
conditions. • Riprap (SCS/NJ standards 4.12.1)
• Riprap (Virginia standards III-137)
Minimize Upslope Water Contributions • Riprap (SCS/AL standards III-RR-1)

Upslope water must be diverted around disturbed areas, Waterway Drops

and existing large channels passing through the site must be
protected from erosion runoff. These controls must be • Grade stabilization structure (SCS/NJ standards 4.17.1)
installed before any other site disturbance in order to • Waterway drop structure (Virginia standards III-155)
minimize the amount of water flowing across disturbed • Drop structure (SCS/AL standards III-DS-1)
areas, contributing to site erosion and placing a greater • Gabion (SCS/AL standards III-GB-1)
burden on sediment control practices. These controls are all
preventative erosion control practices. Stream Crossing

General Diversion Structures • Temporary stream crossing (Virginia standards III-183)

• Stream crossing (SCS/AL standards III-SX-1)
• Diversions (Virginia standards III-51)
• Diversions (SCS/NJ standards 4.2.1) Grassed Waterways
• Level spreaders (Virginia standards III-161)
• Diversions (SCS/AL standards III-DV-1) • Vegetative streambank stabilization (Virginia standards
• Diversion design (SCS/AL standards III-DN-6) III-165)
• Grassed waterways (SCS/NJ standards 4.3.1)
Temporary Diversion Structures • Sodding (WDNR standards 4-52)
• Grassed waterway (WDNR standards 4-55)
• Temporary diversion (WDNR standards 4-7) • Geotextile reinforced grassed waterway (WDNR
• Temporary diversion dike (Virginia standards III-139) standards 4-57)
• Temporary fill diversion (Virginia standards III-43) • Waterway or stormwater channels (SCS/AL standards
• Temporary right-of-way diversion (Virginia standards III-WW-1)
Slope Protection
Permanent Diversion Structures
• Slope protection structures (SCS/NJ standards 4.5.1)
• Permanent diversion (WDNR standards 4-4) • Temporary slope drain Virginia standards III-89)
• Paved flume (Virginia standards III-95)
General Channel Stabilization • Paved flume (SCS/AL standards III-PF-1)
• Retaining wall (SCS/AL standards III-RW-1)
• Permanent channel stabilization (WDNR standards • Down drain structure (SCS/AL standards III-DN-1)
4-48) • Gabion (SCS/AL standards III-GB-1)
• Structural streambank stabilization (Virginia standards
• Rock and concrete lined waterways (WDNR standards Provide Downslope Controls
• Channel stabilization (SCS/NJ standards 4.6.1) In general, wet detention (sediment) ponds are required to
• Lined waterway (SCS/NJ standards 4.11.1) treat all runoff leaving construction sites for drainage areas
• Channel stabilization (SCS/AL standards III-CS-1, III greater than about 10 acres. If the drainage area is less than
DV-6) 10 acres, then filter fences, or equivalent perimeter sediment
• Gabion (SCS/AL standards III-GB-1) controls, may be used at all side slope and downslope edges
of the construction site, depending on the site hydraulics.
Check Dams These controls must also be installed before any other site
disturbance. These controls are all treatment, or sediment
• Check dams (Virginia standards III-151) control, practices, as they are intended to remove sediment
• Temporary sediment trap (Virginia standards III-55) from the flowing water before it leaves the construction site.
• Sediment traps (WDNR standards 4-35) Erosion control (prevention) practices must always be
• Check dams (SCS/AL standards III-CD-1) emphasized, but sediment controls will always be needed as
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 53

Slope Diversions

Large diversion berm and swale to divert water from downslope area at an Temporary slope diversion at highway construction site.
abandoned mine site (SCS photo).

Highway slope diversion during initial construction. This photo of U.S. Route 1 being relocated around Dover, Delaware shows
pipe slope drains that carry sediment laden runoff downslope to a collector
swale. Note that the side slopes are graded and seeded as the work
progresses to keep soil from washing down (Photograph by D. Lake).

Large slope diversions carrying water from upslope benches (IECA


Filter fabric fence on mulched slope (SCS photo).

Downslope side of perimeter filter fence intercepting sheetflows.

it will not be possible to prevent all erosion from occurring in Sediment Basins
the first place.
• Temporary sediment basin (Virginia standards III-59
General Sediment Fence and III-87)
• Sediment basins (SCS/NJ standards 4.4.1)
• Sediment barrier (SCS/NJ standards 4.13.1) • Sediment basins (WDNR standards 4-39)
• Sediment barrier/fence (SCS/AL standards III-SF-1) • Minimum area for sedimentation basins (SCS undated)
• Retrofitting (SCS/AL standards III-RT-1) • Sediment basin (SCS/AL standards III-SB-1)
• Storm water retention structure (SCS/AL standards
Filter Fabric Fences III-RS-1)

• Silt fence (Virginia standards III-17) Outlet Protection

• Filter fabric fences (WDNR standards 4-11)
• Filter fabric barriers (WDNR standards 4-25) • Outlet protection (Virginia standards III-127)
• Temporary right-of-way diversion (Virginia standards • Conduct outlet protection (SCS/NJ standards 4.14.1)
III-47) • Outlet protection (SCS/AL standards III-OP-1,
• Sediment barrier/fence (SCS/AL standards III-SF-1) III-DN-6)

Straw Bale Fences Protect Disturbed Areas

• Straw bale fences (WDNR standards 4-15) Disturbed areas exposed for extended periods (14 days is a
• Straw bale barriers (WDNR standards 4-30) typical limit) without any activity must be stabilized with
• Straw bale barriers (Virginia standards III-9) mulches, temporary vegetation, permanent vegetation, or by
• Brush barrier (Virginia standards III-25) other equivalent control measures. These controls would all
• Sediment barrier/fence (SCS/AL standards III-SF-1) be considered preventative, or erosion control, practices, and
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 55

Large expanses of unprotected soils left exposed for long periods cause most Various slope protection treatments and tree conservation (Photograph by D.
of the sediment losses from construction sites. Lake).

are usually considered the most effective, especially when • Temporary vegetative cover for soil stabilization
used in conjunction with a good phasing plan to minimize the (SCS/NJ standards 3.1.1)
amount of land being disturbed at any one time. • Temporary vegetation-seeding (SCS/AL standards
Permanent Seeding
• Mulching (Virginia standards M-247)
• Mulching (WDNR standards 4-19) • Permanent seeding (Virginia standards III-215)
• Stabilization with mulch only (SCS/NJ standards 3.3.1) • Permanent vegetative cover for soil stabilization
• Guide to mulching materials (King Co. Wash. 1989) (SCS/NJ standards 3.2.1)
• Mulching (SCS/AL standards IV-MU-1) • Permanent seeding (SCS/AL standards IV-PS-1)

Local Vegetation Information Sodding

• Vegetative BMPs to protect exposed surfaces • Sodding (Virginia standards M-231)

(Birmingham Regional Planning Commission, BRPC, • Permanent stabilization with sod (SCS/NJ standards
temporary and permanent covers) 3.4.1)
• Lime and fertilizer requirements for plant growth • Bermudagrass establishment Virginia standards
(BRPC Appendix 1) III-241)
• Planting guide (SCS, Jefferson County, AL-6, 1975) • Sodding (SCS/AL standards IV-SD-1)
• Seed, fertilizer, and lime requirements for cost-share
rates (SCS, Jeff. Co., Exhibit 1) Trees and Shrubs
• Selection of vegetation (SCS/AL standards IV-7)
• Information on installing vegetative measures (SCS/AL • Trees, shrubs, vines, and ground covers (Virginia
standards Appendix A4) standards III-257)
• Shrub, vine, and ground cover planting (SCS/AL
General Seeding standards IV-SVG-1)

• Surface roughening (Virginia standards III-201) Maintenance of Vegetation

• Topsoiling (Virginia standards III-207)
• Topsoiling (SCS/NJ standards 3.5.1) • Maintaining vegetation (SCS/NJ standards 3-6.1)
• Seeding (WDNR standard 4-22) • Tree preservation and protection (Virginia standards
• Topsoil (SCS/AL standards III-TS-1) III-279)
• Surface roughening (SCS/AL standards III-SR-1) • Tree protection during construction (SCS/NJ standards
Temporary Seeding • Tree preservation and protection (SCS/AL standards
• Temporary seeding (Virginia standards M-211) • Irrigation (SCS/AL standards IV-IR-1)

Supporting Construction Site Controls

A number of construction site controls are also typically

specified in local ordinances. The following are examples of
some of these controls, some of which are preventative
(represented by the “good-housekeeping” controls) while
others are treatment practices (such as inlet filters). The
Alabama Handbook, along with other erosion control
manuals, contains descriptions of many “structural”
practices that can be used on construction sites to prevent
erosion, or to capture sediment that has already eroded. The
following excerpts from the Alabama Handbook are only a
few that are included in this chapter, but are the most basic
controls that should be considered: construction site exits,
stormdrain inlet protection, use of riprap, check dams in
channels, and protection of outlets from ponds. These
sections contain recommendations for the use of these
controls for Alabama conditions. Other jurisdictions have
developed their own list of mandatory and recommended
controls. These handbooks are periodically revised, and local
regulatory agencies and/or the local USDA extension offices
should be consulted for updated recommendations. The
erosion and sediment control benefits of most of these
controls have not been measured in the field, but these
controls are generally acknowledged as essential elements of
construction site erosion control programs.
Unsafe storage disposal of empty oil containers at construction site.
Control Wastewater from Dewatering Operations

Wastewater from site dewatering operations should be public or private roads needs to be removed daily by street
controlled to limit the discharge of sediment. Typical cleaners (and not by washing it down the storm drain
criterion restricts particles greater than 50 µm from being system).
discharged during dewatering operations. This level of
control can be obtained by using simple sedimentation Entrance Controls
devices sized according to the maximum dewatering
pumping rates. • Temporary gravel construction entrance (Virginia
standards III-1)
• Dewatering settling basin (WDNR standards 4-72) • Stabilized construction entrance (SCS/NJ standards
• Dewatering sediment basin (SCS/AL standards 4.15.1)
III-RS-5) • Construction exit (SCS/AL standards III-CE-1)

Properly Dispose of Construction Debris Site Road Controls

All building material and other wastes need to be removed • Construction road stabilization (Virginia standards
from the site and disposed of in licensed disposal facilities. III-5)
No wastes or unused building materials may be buried, • Temporary graveled access roads and parking areas
dumped, or discharged at construction sites. (WDNR standards 4-74)
• Traffic control (SCS/NJ standards 4.9.1)
Control Tracking of Sediment Off-Site • Construction exit (SCS/AL standards III-CE-1)

Each site needs to have graveled access drives and parking Dust Control
areas to reduce the tracking of sediment onto public or
private roads. An example regulation would require that all • Dust control Virginia standards III-299)
unpaved roads on the site carrying more than 25 vehicles per • Dust control (SCS/NJ standards 4.10.1)
day also be graveled. Any sediment or debris tracked onto • Dust control (SCS/AL standards IV-DU-1)
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 57

Proper construction site entrance or graveled driveway can eliminate much tracking of sediment onto public roads.

WI DNR photo.

Protect Construction Site Entrances and Exits Design Criteria

Aggregate Size—Aggregate should be Alabama Highway
The following discussion is from the Alabama Handbook Department coarse aggregate gradation No. 1, or equivalent.
(USDA, 2003) and is an example of the guidance provided AL DOT coarse aggregate No. 1 has the following size
by different state agencies for the control of tracking from specifications:
construction exits.
Percent Passing
Construction Site Exit-CE 100 mm (4 in) 100%
90 mm (3-1/2 in) 90–100%
63 mm (2-1/2 in) 25–60%
Definition 37.5 mm (1-1/2 in) 0–15%
A stone or rock stabilized pad located at points of 19 mm (3/4 in) 0–5%
vehicular ingress or egress to a construction site.
Entrance Dimensions—The rock pad shall be a minimum
Purpose of six inches thick. It shall be at least 50 feet long or the
To reduce or eliminate the transport of mud from the length required to enter and park the longest anticipated
construction area onto public right-of-ways by motor construction vehicles. The width shall be at least 20 feet.
vehicles or by runoff. Geotextiles—A non-woven geotextile meeting the
requirements of Soil Conservation Service Material
Conditions Where Practice Applies Specification 592, Class IV should be used under the rock
This practice is applied where vehicular traffic will be when the subgrade is soft or the blow count is less than 10.
leaving a construction site and move directly onto a public Washing—A wash rack shall be provided as necessary to
road or street. prevent mud from being transported to public streets and
highways. It shall be constructed of concrete and/or other
Planning Considerations durable materials. Provisions shall be provided for the mud
Roads and streets adjacent to construction sites should be and other material to be carried away from the wash rack to a
kept clean for the general safety and welfare of the public. A sediment basin to remove the mud from the water before
construction exit (Figure 2.1) should be provided where mud release from the site.
can be removed from construction vehicle tires before they
enter a public road. If traveling over the rock stabilized pad Maintenance
does not remove the mud from construction vehicles, a wash The construction exit shall be maintained in such a way to
area should be provided for that purpose. Whenever washing prevent the movement of mud into public travel ways.
is used, the wash water needs to be collected in a sediment Aggregate should be added to the pad whenever it will not
basin before leaving the site. serve as an all weather travel way for the construction
Construction of stabilized roads throughout the vehicles. Sediment basins shall be cleaned out whenever
development site should be considered to lessen the amount one-half of the design storage volume is depleted.
of mud transported by vehicular traffic. The rock pad should
be located to provide for maximum use by all construction Construction Specifications for Construction Exit
vehicles. Consideration should be given to limiting
construction vehicles to only one ingress and egress point. 1. Remove all vegetation, roots and other objectionable
Measures may be necessary to make existing traffic use the material from the stone pad area.
construction exit. 2. Smooth the area to an even grade and fill in and
recompact material in holes low places or over excavated
areas. Recompacted material shall be as dense as the
surrounding material.
3. Place any required geotextile over the area to be
protected. Take care not to pull the geotextile tight, but
leave sufficient slack for the fabric to conform to the
ground after rock is placed and loaded with vehicles. The
fabric shall be unrolled parallel to the roadway
centerline. The recommended geotextile overlap is 24
inches when the blow count is 10, 36 inches when the
blow count is four to nine and 48 inches when the blow
count is three or less. Geotextiles that are the full width
Figure 2.1. Gravel construction exit (USDA, 2003). of the roadway are needed.
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 59

4. The stone pad should be dumped and spread in a full Conditions Where Practice Applies
uniform thickness before vehicular traffic is permitted to Where storm drain inlets are to be made operational before
travel on it. permanent stabilization of the disturbed drainage area.
5. Wash racks shall be installed in accordance with Different types of structures are applicable to different
manufacturers recommendations. situations.
6. Sediment basins or other related facilities constructed in
conjunction with the wash rack shall be constructed in Planning Considerations
accordance with the plans and specifications. Sediment Storm sewers which are made operational before their
basins for wash racks shall be constructed before the drainage area is stabilized can convey large amounts of
wash rack is put into service. sediment to natural drainageways. In cases of extreme
sediment loadings, the storm sewer itself may clog and lose a
major portion of its capacity. To avoid these problems, it is
Protect Storm Drain Inlets necessary to minimize that amount of sediment that enters
the system at the inlets.
All storm drain inlets need to be protected from erosion This practice contains several types of inlet filters and
materials. traps which have different applications dependent upon site
conditions and type of inlet. These inlet protection devices
• Storm drain inlet protection (Virginia standards III-29) are for drainage areas of less than one acre. Runoff from
• Inlet protection barriers (WDNR standards 4-64) large disturbed areas should be routed through a sediment
• Storm sewer inlet protection (SCS/NJ standards 4.16.1) basin.
• Inlet insert baskets (WDNR standards 4-66) The best way to prevent sediment from entering the storm
• Inlet protection (SCS/AL standards III-NP-1) sewer system is to stabilize the site as quickly as possible,
preventing erosion and stopping sediment at its source. Inlet
The following discussion is from the Alabama Handbook protection devices likely have limited benefits for most of the
(USDA, 2003) and is an example of the guidance provided eroding sediment, although they are more effective for the
by different state agencies for the protection of stormdrain larger materials that may clog inlets and drainage systems.
inlets. Sediment is best treated by preventing erosion. Leave as
much of the site undisturbed as possible in the total site
plan. Clear and disturb the site in small increments, if
Stormdrain Inlet Protection (NP)
Design Criteria
A sediment filter installed around a storm drain drop inlet
or curb inlet to reduce sediment discharge. 1. The drainage area shall be no greater than 1 acre.
2. The inlet protection device shall be constructed in a
Purpose manner that will facilitate cleanout and disposal of
To prevent sediment from entering storm drainage trapped sediment and minimize interference with
systems during construction and prior to permanent construction activities.
stabilization of the disturbed area. 3. The inlet protection devices shall be constructed in such

Cinder block and gravel barrier to protect inlet (SCS photo). Proprietary filter fabric storm drain inlet covers.

There have been many inlet barriers used over the years, with poor to moderate success. Most have suffered from
lack of proper maintenance or poor construction.

Typical filter fabric enclosure surrounding inlet (J. Voorhees photo). Inlet protected by filter fabric, thick matting to protect new grass, and
chemically stabilized soil (Illinois).

Typical reinforced filter fabric barrier surrounding elevated inlet.

Large accumulation of debris surrounding filter fabric inlet barrier,

requiring maintenance.
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 61

There have been many inlet barriers used over the years, with poor to moderate success. Most have suffered from
lack of proper maintenance or poor construction (continued).

Older concrete block, lumber, and stone inlet barrier (historical SCS Older concrete block, lumber, and stone inlet barrier (historical SCS
photo). photo).

Older concrete block and stone inlet barrier (historical SCS photo). Netted stone barrier to attempt to divert bypassing gutter flows into inlet.

Typical straw bale barrier surrounding inlet (notice tight bales and large Straw bale barrier showing large gaps between bales and decomposing
amount of sediment collected around outside of bales, needing removal). bales, needing replacement (SCS photo).

There have been many inlet barriers used over the years, with poor to moderate success. Most have suffered from
lack of proper maintenance or poor construction (continued).

Temporary inlet filter fabric bag placed under inlet at redevelopment Temporary inlet filter fabric bag placed under inlet at redevelopment
construction site. construction site.

a manner that any resultant ponding of stormwater will Construction Specifications for Inlet Protection
not cause excessive inconvenience or damage to 1. Straw bale drop inlet structure. (Figure 2.2). This method
adjacent areas or structures. of inlet protection is applicable where the inlet drains a
4. Design criteria more specific to each particular inlet relatively flat area (slopes no greater than 5 percent)
protection device will be found with that construction where sheet or overland flows (not exceeding 0.5 cfs) are
specification. typical. The method shall not apply to inlets receiving
5. Ponding of water or deposition of sediment on roadways concentrated flows, such as in street or highway
that will create traffic hazards will be prevented. medians.

a. Bales shall be either wire-bound or string-tied with

the bale oriented so that the bindings are around the
1. The structure shall be inspected after each rain and sides rather than over and under the bales. Bales will
repairs made as needed. be laid on edge.
2. Sediment shall be removed and the trap restored to its b. Bales shall be placed lengthwise in a single row
original dimensions when the sediment has accumulated surrounding the inlet, with the ends of adjacent bales
to 1/2 the design depth of the trap. Removed sediment pressed together.
shall be deposited in a suitable area and in such a manner c. The filter barrier shall be entrenched and backfilled. A
that it will not erode. Stabilize all sediment disposal areas trench shall be excavated around the inlet the width of
with appropriate vegetation. a bale to a minimum depth of 4 inches. After the bales
3. Structures shall be removed and the area stabilized when are staked, the excavated soil shall be backfilled and
the contributing drainage area has been properly compacted against the filter barrier.
stabilized. d. Each bale shall be securely anchored and held in place
Example Construction Site Control Requirements 63

Figure 2.2. Straw bale drop inlet sediment trap (USDA, 2003).

by at least two stakes or rebars driven through the that it no longer adequately performs its function, the
bale. stones must be pulled away from the inlet, cleaned and
e. Loose straw shall be wedged between bales to prevent replaced.
water from entering between bales. Warning: This filtering device has no overflow mechanism,
f. Stakes for anchorage shall be nominal 1″ × 2″ durable therefore, ponding is likely, especially if sediment is not
wood or equivalent. The wood shall be sound with a removed regularly. This type of device must never be used
minimum actual dimension of 1/2″. The minimum where overflow may endanger an exposed embankment
embedment into the ground shall be 12 inches. slope. Consideration should also be given to the possible
2. Gravel and wire mesh drop inlet sediment filter. (Figure effects of ponding on traffic routes, nearby structures,
2.3). This method of inlet protection is applicable where working areas, adjacent property, etc.
heavy concentrated flows are expected, but not where
ponding around the structure might cause excessive 3. Gravel curb inlet sediment filter. (Figure 2.4). This
inconvenience or damage to adjacent structures and method of inlet protection is applicable at curb inlets
unprotected areas. where ponding in front of the structure is not likely to
a. Wire mesh shall be laid over the drop inlet so that the cause inconvenience or damage to adjacent structures
wire extends a minimum of l foot beyond each side of and unprotected areas.
the inlet structure. Hardware cloth or comparable wire a. Hardware cloth or comparable wire mesh with 1/2
mesh with 1/2-inch openings shall be used. If more inch openings shall be placed over the curb inlet
than one strip of mesh is necessary, the strips shall be opening so that at least 12 inches of wire extends
overlapped and securely tied or wired together. across the inlet cover and at least 12 inches of wire
b. Alabama Highway Department No. 1 Coarse extends across the concrete gutter from the inlet
Aggregate, or equivalent, shall be placed over the opening.
wire mesh as indicated on Figure 2.3. The depth of b. Stone shall be piled against the wire so as to anchor it
stone shall be at least 12 inches over the entire inlet against the gutter and inlet cover and to cover the inlet
opening. The stone shall extend beyond the inlet opening completely. Alabama Highway Department
opening at least 18 inches in all directions. No. 1 Coarse Aggregate, or equivalent, shall be used.
c. If the stone filter becomes clogged with sediment so c. If the stone filter becomes clogged with sediment so

Figure 2.3. Gravel and wire mesh drop inlet filter (USDA, 2003).

Figure 2.4. Gravel curb inlet sediment filter (USDA, 2003).

Figure 2.5. Block and gravel inlet filter (USDA, 2003).

that it no longer adequately performs its function, the

stone must be pulled away from the block, cleaned stacking combinations of 4-inch, 8-inch and 12-inch
and replaced. Do not hose the debris into the curb wide blocks. The barrier of blocks shall be at least 12
inlet. inches high and no greater than 24 inches high.
4. Block and gravel curb inlet sediment filter. (Figure 2.5). b. Wire mesh shall be placed over the outside vertical
This method of inlet protection is applicable at curb face of the concrete blocks to prevent stone from
inlets where an overflow capability is necessary to being washed through the holes in the blocks.
prevent excessive ponding in front of the structure. Hardware cloth or comparable wire mesh with
a. Two concrete blocks shall be placed on their sides 1/2-inch openings shall be used.
abutting the curb at either side of the inlet opening. c. Stone shall be piled against the wire to the top of the
b. A 2-inch by 4-inch stud shall be cut and placed block barrier, as shown in Figure 2.6. Alabama
through the outer holes of each spacer block to help Highway Department No. 1 Coarse Aggregate, or
keep the front blocks in place. equivalent, shall be used.
c. Concrete blocks shall be placed on their sides across d. If the stone filter becomes clogged with sediment so
the front of the inlet and abutting the spacer blocks as that it no longer adequately performs its function, the
illustrated in Figure 2.5. stone must be pulled away from the blocks, cleaned
d. Wire mesh shall be placed over the outside vertical and replaced.
face (webbing) of the concrete blocks to prevent stone
from being washed through the holes in the blocks.
Chicken wire or hardware cloth with 1/2-inch
openings shall be used.
e. Alabama Highway Department No. 1 Coarse
Aggregate, or equivalent, shall be piled against the
wire to the top of the barrier as shown in Figure
f. If the stone filter becomes clogged with sediment so
that it no longer adequately performs its function, the
stone must be pulled away from the blocks, cleaned
and replaced.
5. Block and gravel drop inlet sediment filter. (Figure 2.6).
This method of inlet protection is applicable where
heavy flows are expected and where an overflow
capacity is necessary to prevent excessive ponding
around the structure.
a. Place concrete blocks lengthwise on their sides in a
single row around the perimeter of the inlet, with the
ends of adjacent blocks abutting. The height of the
Figure 2.6. Block and gravel drop inlet filter (USDA, 2003).
barrier can be varied, depending on design needs, by
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 65

Small-scale slope diversion to safely carry roof runoff away from building Soil stockpile next to road needing protection.
and down sensitive adjacent slope.

Example Proprietary Inlet Protection Devices the road, containing more than 10 cubic yards of material, and in
place for 14 or more days must be covered with tarps or other control.
Nutec Supply:
If the piles will be in place for less than 14 days, then their perimeters must be surrounded by filter fencing or straw bales. Storm drain
Crow Company: inlets must be protected from potential erosion from near-street
storage piles by filter fencing or other appropriate barriers.
erosion_control.html Many of the above practices may be applicable for erosion
EarthSaver Company: control of storage piles, such as filter fabric and straw bale fences for perimeter protection, plus temporary mulching
Main%20Window=applictn.html and seeding practices to reduce direct erosion of material
from the storage piles.
EPA discussion on inlet protection:
Minimize Area Disturbed
Most state guidance provides for the incorporation of
One of the most effective erosion controls would require
newly-developed control practices for erosion and sediment
that all construction activities be conducted in a logical
control, provided that the new control’s performance is
sequence to minimize the area of bare soil disturbed at any
known. For example, Pennsylvania provides detailed
one time.
guidance for the specification and use of controls that are not
• Land grading (SCS/NJ standards 4.1.1) contained in the Erosion & Sediment Pollution Control
Manual. This section of the state manual is quoted below.
Control Erosion Scour from Roof Runoff The interesting point of interest for persons planning to use a
novel control practice is the requirement that a conventional
Roof runoff must be directed to stabilized surfaces. control practice of known performance must be specified to
• Down drain structure (SCS/AL standards III-DN-1) be installed if the novel control practice fails (PA DEP 2000).


Control Erosion from Storage Piles
The BMPs set forth in this manual shall be appropriately
incorporated into all erosion and sedimentation control plans unless
All uncovered soil or dirt storage piles also need to be
the designer shows that alteration of these BMPs or inclusion of
controlled to prevent erosion. An example regulation may other BMPs shall effectively minimize accelerated erosion and
contain the following restrictions. sedimentation. Since the burden of proof for whether a proposed new
An uncovered storage pile, containing more than 10 cubic yards product or procedure will be effective lies with the designer, all
of material, should be located more than 25 feet from a roadway or necessary information required to approve the use of the new product
drainage channel. If these piles remain for 14 or more days, then their or procedure must be submitted as part of the application. At a
surfaces must be stabilized. If the piles will be in place for less than minimum, this should include:
14 days, then their perimeters must be surrounded by filter fencing or 1. The name of the product (and type of control if a brand name is
straw bales. Dirt or soil storage piles located less than 25 feet from used).

2. Proposed use (e.g. storm sewer inlet protection). If this product or areas that may not be at final grade but will remain dormant
procedure has the potential to minimize accelerated erosion and for longer than 30 days, but less than one year. Permanent
sedimentation more effectively or efficiently than current
methods, this should be stated and the reason given (e.g. same
stabilization shall be applied to areas that are to be left
protection for less cost, less maintenance required, etc.). It should dormant for more than one year
be demonstrated that the proposed use meets with any
manufacturer’s recommendations (e.g. manufacturer’s (2) Soil Stockpile Stabilization
recommendations showing such use, test data, limitations,
During construction, soil stockpiles and borrow areas
3. Where the proposed use is in a protected watershed (HQ* or EV*)
or a critical area (e.g. adjacent to a stream channel or wetland), an
shall be stabilized or protected with sediment trapping
alternative conventional BMP should be specified for installation measures. Temporary protection and permanent stabilization
should the innovative product or procedure fail. The definition of shall be applied to all soil stockpiles on site and borrow areas
a product failure must be clearly stated. or soil intentionally transferred off site.
4. Sufficient installation information must be provided to ensure its
proper use. This should include a clear, concise sequence as well (3) Permanent Stabilization
as a typical detail showing all critical dimensions and/or
5. The plan maps must show all locations where the proposed new
Permanent vegetative cover shall be established on
product or procedure will be used. All receiving waters must be denuded areas not otherwise permanently stabilized.
identified. Any downstream public water supplies, fish Permanent vegetation shall not be considered established
hatcheries, or other environmentally sensitive facilities must be until a ground cover is achieved that is: uniform, mature
noted. enough to survive, and will inhibit erosion.
6. A suitable maintenance program must be provided. Specific
instructions, which identify potential problems and recommended
remedies must be included.
(4) Sediment Basins & Traps

New products and procedures which meet the above criteria will Sediment basins, sediment traps, perimeter dikes,
be reviewed on a case-by-case basis until their effectiveness has been
sufficiently demonstrated by successful use in the field.
sediment barriers, and other measures intended to trap
sediment shall be constructed as a first step in any
*Note: HQ: high quality and EV: exceptional value. land-disturbing activity and shall be made functional before
upslope land disturbance takes place.
Most construction site control handbooks and design
manuals include some information pertaining to the selection (5) Stabilization of Earthen Structures
of controls needed for construction sites, and guidance on
submitting acceptable control plans. As an example, the Stabilization measures shall be applied to earthen
following discussion lists the minimum standards applicable structures such as dams, dikes, and diversions immediately
for all construction sites in Virginia. Also included is after installation.
planning guidance from the 2003 Alabama Handbook for
erosion control. (6) Sediment Traps and Sediment Basins

Sediment traps and basins shall be designed and

Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control constructed based upon the total drainage area to be served
Regulations, Minimum Standards by the trap or basin as follows:
Sediment Traps—Only control drainage areas less than
The following is the list of the 19 “minimum standards”
three acres. Minimum storage capacity of 134 cubic yards
for erosion and sediment control as required in Section
per acre of drainage area.
4VAC50-30-40 of the Virginia Erosion and Sediment
Control Regulations. This is a typical listing representative Sediment Basins—Control drainage areas greater than or
of most erosion and sediment control regulations and equal to three acres. Minimum storage capacity of 134 cubic
indicates which controls need to be considered for yards per acre of drainage area. The outfall system shall, at a
construction-site activities. minimum, maintain the structural integrity of the basin
during a 25 year storm of 24-hour duration.
(1) Soil Stabilization
(7) Cut and Fill Slopes Design and Construction
Permanent or temporary soil stabilization shall be applied
to denuded areas within seven days after final grade is Cut and fill slopes shall be designed and constructed in a
reached on any portion of the site. Temporary soil manner that will minimize erosion. Slopes found to be
stabilization shall be applied within seven days to denuded eroding excessively within one year of permanent
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 67

Permanent Stabilization Solutions (Illinois roadside).

Thick netting and fiber mulch protection for new grass. Netting and mulch along with cemented soil for roadside stabilization.

stabilization shall be provided with additional slope cofferdams; and earthen fill may be used for these structures
stabilizing measures until the problem is corrected. if armored by nonerodible cover materials.

(8) Concentrated Runoff Down Slopes (13) Crossing Live Watercourse

Concentrated runoff shall not flow down cut or fill slopes When a live watercourse must be crossed by construction
unless contained within an adequate temporary or permanent vehicles more than twice in any six-month period, a
channel, flume, or slope drain structure. temporary vehicular stream crossing constructed of
nonerodible material shall be provided.
(9) Slope Maintenance
(14) Regulation of Watercourse Crossing
Whenever water seeps from a slope face, adequate
drainage or other protection shall be provided. All applicable federal, state and local regulations
pertaining to working in or crossing live watercourses shall
(10) Storm Sewer Inlet Protection be met.

All storm sewer inlets made operable during construction (15) Stabilization of Watercourse
shall be protected so that sediment-laden water cannot enter
the stormwater conveyance system without first being The bed and banks of a watercourse shall be stabilized
filtered/treated to remove sediment. immediately after work in the watercourse is completed.

(11) Stormwater Conveyance Protection (16) Underground Utility Line Installation

Before newly constructed stormwater conveyance Underground utility lines shall be installed in accordance
channels or pipes are made operational, adequate outlet with the following standards in addition to other applicable
protection and any required temporary or permanent channel criteria: no more than 500 linear feet of trench may be
lining shall be installed in both the conveyance channel and opened at one time; excavated material shall be placed on the
the receiving channel. uphill side of trenches; effluent from dewatering operations
shall be filtered or passed through an approved sediment
(12) Work in Live Watercourse trapping device, or both, and discharged in a manner that
does not adversely affect flowing streams or off-site
When work in a live watercourse is performed, property; material used for backfilling trenches shall be
precautions shall be taken to minimize encroachment, properly compacted in order to minimize erosion and
control sediment transport, and stabilize the work area to the promote stabilization; restabilization shall be accomplished
greatest extent possible during construction; nonerodible in accordance with these regulations; and all work shall
material shall be used for the construction of causeways and comply with applicable safety regulations.

Working in rivers, streams, or lake shorelines requires special consideration (none of these examples have any erosion
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 69

Use of Cofferdams to Protect Waterbodies to 150 feet and the height needed about 4 feet. He found that
Support Near-Shore Construction this would take a week to construct at a cost of about $27,000
and then another week to remove after the turbine repairs
The state power authority built a hydraulic turbine were made. However, this activity would also cause
generating plant on the eastern shore of a pristine lake in disturbance to the lake bed.
1918. After almost 80 years of operation, a crack was noticed After consulting with an erosion control expert, he
in the supporting structural carriage for one of the turbines at decided to use a coffer dam of two polyethylene tubes filled
the plant’s outlet on the lake. In order to gain access to the with water and wrapped with a durable geotextile. The
turbine area, the authority needed to construct a coffer dam system cost $2,100 and was installed in just four hours,
out into the lake, and then dewater the area, construct access including dewatering. At the completion of the work, the
and complete repairs. The neighborhood along the shore and system was drained and removed in an hour and a half. This
inhabitants of the area had changed dramatically in the system was floated into position then filled with water and
decades since the plant was first built. There were many had essentially no disturbance to the lake bed. Its height
concerns about construction impacts such as noise, access extended well above lake level to allow protection from
and disruption of traffic as well as environmental impacts to wave action by wind or watercraft. Although this structure is
the lake, even with the construction of a coffer dam to isolate not bullet proof and can freeze solid if used in cold climate
the work area. The project engineer for the authority applications, it is an excellent system for isolating work areas
investigated constructing an earthen coffer dam with a rock that require small depth control with low environmental
riprapped face for wave protection. The length would be only impact.

Water-Filled Coffer Dams Allowing Near-Shore Work

These two photos at the New York State Electric & Gas Corporation hydroelectric plant on Keuka Lake demonstrate the use of water structures as cofferdams.
Two tubes of polyethylene wrapped with a geotextile are filled with water to act as a low ground pressure, environmentally friendly cofferdam. They can be
installed and removed quickly (Photograph by D. Lake).

This is another example of how utility line crossings can be accomplished without routing construction equipment through the stream. This Aqua-Barrier allows
one side to be completed then the set up can be moved to the opposite bank for completion of the crossing.

Use of Cofferdams to Support In-Lake Dam It was decided to install a siphon system for reservoir
Rehabilitation drawdown. To do this and maintain the integrity of the
ecosystem of the lake, a coffer dam system was constructed
Not 60 miles from a major U.S. city, a nuclear fuel of structural steel A-frames with a geo-membrane that was
processing facility operated on this 54-acre lake from placed on the frame and extended out into the pool area. The
1946–1972. Dam safety inspections statewide found a entire system was put in place by divers. This coffer dam was
number of dams that did not meet safety standards. This about 125 feet long and about 8 feet high. Once the dam was
particular project required the installation of a in place, the work site was dewatered by pumps whose
reservoir-drain system in the high-hazard dam in order to intakes were located well away from the base of the
assist in meeting current safety standards. Since the existing structural frame.
100 foot long dam had a competent concrete core in the Once the construction was complete, the area was cleaned
center of the dam beginning about four feet below the top of up of excess materials and some fish habitat structures placed
dam and extending down to the rock foundation, breaching in the area. The water was then pumped back into the work
the dam to install a conventional pipe/gate system was not area and the divers removed the coffer dam with minimal
feasible. disturbance to the lake bottom.

Near-Shore Barrier Dams

These photos show the use of a Port-A-Dam system in use at Nuclear Lake in Dutchess County, New York. This 54 acre lake is about 12 feet deep and would
have had to be pumped dry to fix the dam. This system was installed by divers, then the interior pumped dry for working, protecting lake ecosystem
(Photograph by D. Lake).
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 71

(17) Vehicular Sediment Tracking facilities. The plan shall set forth the maintenance
requirements of the facility and the person responsible
Where construction vehicle access routes intersect paved for performing the maintenance.
or public roads: provisions shall be made to minimize the • Outfall from a detention facility shall be discharged to
transport of sediment by vehicular tracking onto the paved a receiving channel, and energy dissipators shall be
surface; where sediment is transported onto a paved or public placed at the outfall of all detention facilities as
road surface, the road surface shall be cleaned thoroughly at necessary to provide a stabilized transition from the
the end of each day; and sediment shall be removed from the facility to the receiving channel.
roads by shoveling or sweeping and transported to a • Increased volumes of sheetflows that may cause
sediment control disposal area. Street washing shall be erosion or sedimentation on adjacent property shall be
allowed only after sediment is removed in this manner. diverted to a stable outlet, adequate channel, pipe or
pipe system, or to a detention facility.
(18) Removal of Temporary Measures • In applying these stormwater runoff criteria, individual
lots or parcels in a residential, commercial or industrial
All temporary erosion and sediment control measures development shall not be considered to be separate
shall be removed within 30 days after final site stabilization, development projects. Instead, the development as a
or after the temporary measures are no longer needed, unless whole shall be considered to be a single development
otherwise authorized by the program authority. Trapped project.
sediment and the disturbed soil areas resulting from the • All measures used to protect properties and waterways
disposition of temporary measures shall be permanently shall be employed in a manner that minimizes impacts
stabilized to prevent further erosion and sedimentation. on the physical, chemical and biological integrity of
rivers, streams and other waters of the state.
(19) Stormwater Management
The complete, unedited version of the Virginia Erosion
Properties and waterways downstream from development and Sediment Control Regulations (4VAC50-30) as codified
sites shall be protected from sediment deposition, erosion, in the Virginia Administrative Code is available through the
and damage due to increases in volume, velocity, and peak Commonwealth of Virginia website at
flow rate of stormwater runoff for the stated frequency storm vipnet/portal/government.
of 24-hour duration in accordance with the following
standards and criteria:
Alabama Procedures for Developing Plans for
• Concentrated stormwater runoff leaving a development Erosion and Sediment Control
site shall be discharged directly into an adequate
natural or man-made receiving channel, pipe, or storm The following discussion is excerpted from the Alabama
sewer system. For those sites where runoff is Handbook for Erosion Control, Sediment Control, and
discharged into a pipe or pipe system, downstream Stormwater Management on Construction Sites and Urban
stability analyses at the outfall of the pipe or pipe Areas, produced by the Alabama Soil and Water
system shall be performed. Conservation Committee Montgomery, AL, July 2003
• Adequacy of all channels and pipes shall be verified: (
—Natural Channels—use 2-year storm event An erosion and sediment control plan is a working
—Manmade Channels—use 2- and 10-year storm document which explains and stipulates the measures and
events actions which are to be taken to control potential erosion and
—Pipe and Pipe Systems—use 10-year storm event sedimentation problems. The plan has a written narrative and
• If existing natural receiving channels or previously a graphic portion known as a treatment map or site map. It
constructed man-made channels or pipes are not contains specifications that describe how the measures are to
adequate, the applicant shall provide channel, pipe, or be installed to meet the appropriate criteria. Also, it contains
pipe system improvement or provide a combination of enough information to ensure that the party responsible for
channel improvement, site design, stormwater development of a site can install the measures in the correct
detention, or other measures that is satisfactory to the sequence at the appropriate season of the year. The plan may
program authority to prevent downstream erosion. contain a description of the potential erosion and
• Provide evidence of permission to make the sedimentation problems.
improvements. The purpose of an erosion and sediment control plan is to
• If the applicant chooses an option that includes establish clearly which control measures are intended to
stormwater detention, he shall obtain approval from the prevent erosion and off-site sedimentation. The plan should
locality of a plan for maintenance of the detention serve as a blueprint for the location, installation, and

maintenance of practices to control all anticipated erosion, clear, concise manner that describes the type of
and prevent sediment from leaving the site. proposed development, existing conditions at the site
Developers and others can minimize erosion, and adjacent areas, proposed erosion and sediment
sedimentation, and other construction problems by selecting control measures, and rationale or justification for
areas appropriate for the intended use. Tracts of land vary in those decisions. Adequate information provided by the
suitability for development. Knowing the soil type, narrative is important for the plan reviewer who may
topography, natural landscape values, drainage patterns, not be familiar with the site and to the construction
flooding potential, and other pertinent data helps identify superintendent and inspector who are responsible for
both beneficial features and potential problems of a site. plan installation. Details of the narrative can save time
The planner should have a sound understanding of the and insure that erosion and sediment control measures
requirement of any state and/or local erosion and sediment are properly installed.
control laws, erosion and sedimentation control principles, • Specifications for planned erosion and sediment
and vegetative, structural, and management type measures control measures. These should include standards and
and their role in erosion and sediment control before specifications for both vegetative and structural
preparing an erosion and sedimentation control plan on a measures. The specific name and number of planned
selected site. measures should be identified in the narrative and
The erosion and sediment control plan should be a marked on the site plan or treatment map. By properly
separate document. The plan should include, at a minimum, referencing the state Handbook, the planner could
the erosion and sediment control layout, measure details and reduce the need for detailed drawings and lengthy
specifications. The approved plan should be included in the conservation practice descriptions. New innovative
general construction contract. conservation measures or modifications to the State
An erosion and sediment control plan must contain standard measures may be used, but only after being
sufficient information to describe the site development and thoroughly described, detailed designs developed, and
the system intended to control erosion and off-site concurred by the approving authority.
sedimentation. If regulations exist, the plan must satisfy the • Site plan or treatment map. This map may include a
approving authority that the potential problems of erosion site development drawing and a site erosion and
and sedimentation will be adequately addressed. The length sediment control drawing depicting type and, to the
and complexity of the plan should be commensurate with the extent possible, locations of planned conservation
size and importance of the project, severity of site conditions, practices. Map scales and drawings should be
and the potential for off-site damage. appropriate for clear interpretation.
Obviously, a plan for constructing a house on a single
subdivision lot may not need to be as complex as a plan for a Site planners are urged to use the standard coding system
shopping center development. Plans for projects undertaken for conservation practices contained in the Alabama
on flat terrain will generally be less complicated than plans Handbook. Use of the coding system will result in increased
for projects constructed on steep slopes with higher erosion uniformity of plans and better readability for plan reviewers,
potential. The greatest level of planning and detail should be job superintendents, and inspectors statewide.
evident on plans for projects which are adjacent to flowing The following components should be separate or included
streams, dense population centers, high value properties, as applicable in the written narrative or site plan:
etc., where damage may be particularly costly or detrimental
to the environment. • Supporting material such as sketches and calculations
The owner or lessee of the land being developed has the for design of conservation practices, construction
responsibility for plan preparation and submission. The schedule, other maps (e.g., soils maps, charts, or other
owner or lessee may designate someone (i.e, an engineer, materials) as applicable.
architect, contractor, etc.) to prepare and implement the plan,
but the owner or lessee retains the ultimate responsibility. Step-By-Step Procedures for Plan Development
The following outline of the procedures can be used by
planners and reviewers as a checklist for plan content and Step 1—Data Collection
Inventory the existing site conditions to gather
Components of the Plan information which will help the planner develop the most
effective erosion and sediment control plan. The information
As a minimum, include the following components in the obtained should be shown on a map and verbally explained
plan: in the narrative portion of the plan.

• A location or vicinity map, a narrative written in a A. Topography—A small-scale topographic map of the site
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 73

should be prepared to show the existing contour 0–2%—300 feet

elevations. The suggested interval is usually 1 to 5 feet, 2–5%—150 feet
depending upon the slope of the terrain. However, the over 5%—75 feet
contour interval may be increased on steep slopes.
B. Drainage Patterns—All existing drainage swales and Figures 2.7 and 2.8 are examples of pre-development
patterns on the site should be located and clearly marked and final grading site topography evaluations for these
on the topographic map. slope erosion hazards. The pre-development topography
C. Soils—Major soil type(s) on the site should be shows much of the site having steep slopes and critical
determined and shown on the topographic map. Soils erosion hazards because many of the steep slopes were
information can be obtained from the County Soil greater than 75 feet long. The site was originally heavily
Survey, available from the local Soil Conservation wooded, with little observed erosion problems.
District Office. Commercial soils evaluations are also However, the site clearing operations left these soils
available from consultants. For ease of interpretation, exposed at these slopes while the site was slowly graded
soils information should be plotted directly onto the to the final site contours, as shown in Figure 2.8. Because
map, or an overlay of the same scale. Chapter 4 describes the site was located at the top of the local drainage area
soil characteristics as contained in the County Soil and was surrounded by major roads on the upslope sides,
Surveys that are relevant to erosion control plans. little off-site drainage flowed across the site as it was
D. Ground Cover—The existing vegetation on the site being developed. Diversion structures were therefore not
should be shown. Such features as trees and other woody needed, but downslope controls were critical during the
vegetation, grassy areas, and unique vegetation should grading operation to minimize sediment transport off the
be shown on the map. In addition, existing bare or site. Because the site was relatively small (between 5 and
exposed soil areas should be indicated. 10 acres), with concurrently small subdrainage areas,
E. Adjacent Areas—Areas adjacent to the site should be only filter fabric fences were used, and not a sediment
delineated on the topographic map. Applicable features pond. However, a pond would have been more suitable
such as streams, roads, houses, and utilities or other due to most of the site draining towards one area. The
buildings and wooded areas should be shown. final grading contours shown on Figure 2.8 show that
most of the site was graded flat for building pads and
therefore had low erosion hazards. The slopes on the
Step 2—Data Analysis bottom edges of the terraces, however, are quite steep
and have high erosion hazard potentials. The final slope
When all of the data in Step 1 are considered together, a lengths are all relatively short, so the only critical erosion
picture of the site potentials and limitations should begin to hazard is near the bottom outlet area. These steep slopes
emerge. The site planner should be able to determine those require protection, as described in Chapter 5.
areas which have potentially critical erosion hazards. The
B. Drainage Patterns—Natural drainage patterns exist on
following are some important points to consider in site
the land. These patterns, known as swales, depressions,
and natural watercourses, should be identified in order to
plan around critical areas where water will concentrate.
A. Topography—The primary topographic considerations
Where it is possible, natural drainage ways should be
are slope steepness and slope length. The longer and
used to convey runoff over and off the site to avoid the
steeper the slope, the greater the erosion potential from
expense and problems of constructing an artificial
surface runoff. When the percent of slope has been
drainage system. Man-made ditches and waterways will
determined, areas of similar steepness should be
become part of the erosion problem if they are not
outlined. Slope gradients can be grouped into three
properly stabilized. Care should also be taken to be sure
general ranges of soil erodibility:
that increased runoff from the site will not erode or flood
0–2%—Low erosion hazard potential the existing natural drainage system; this includes
2–5%—Moderate erosion hazard potential locating possible sites for stormwater detention. Chapter
3 presents examples for determining site drainage
over 5%—High erosion hazard potential
Within these slope gradient ranges, longer slope C. Soils—Such soils’ properties as natural drainage, depth
lengths further increase the erosion hazard. Therefore, in to bedrock, depth to seasonal water table, permeability,
determining potential critical areas, the site planner shrink-swell potential, texture, and erodibility should
should be aware of excessively long slopes. As a general exert a strong influence on land development decisions.
rule, the erosion hazard will become critical if slope Also, the flood hazard related to the soils can be
lengths exceed these combined values: determined based on the relationship between soils and

Figure 2.7. Evaluation of pre-development topography (dashed contour lines) for erosion hazards (orange: >10% slopes and high hazard; yellow: 5 to 10%
slopes and high hazard; blue: 2 to 5%slopes and moderate hazard; pink: <2% slopes and low hazard).

Figure 2.8. Evaluation of final grading plan topography (solid contour lines) for erosion hazards (orange: >10% slopes and high hazard; yellow: 5 to 10% slopes
and high hazard; blue: 2 to 5% slopes and moderate hazard; pink: <2% slopes and low hazard).
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 75

flooding. A discussion of soils, along with B. Confine construction activities to the least critical
interpretations for developmental uses, is included in the areas—Any land disturbance in the critically erodible
County Soil Maps, from the local NRCS (SCS) offices. areas will necessitate the installation of more costly
Chapters 3 and 4 both discuss important soil erosion and sediment control measures.
considerations. C. Cluster buildings together—This minimizes the amount
D. Ground Cover—Ground cover is the most important of disturbed area, concentrates utility lines and
factor in terms of preventing erosion. Any existing connections in one area while leaving more open natural
vegetation which can be saved will help prevent erosion. space. The cluster concept not only lessens the erodible
Trees and other vegetation protect the soil as well as area, but it generally reduces runoff and development
beautify the site after construction. If the existing costs.
vegetation cannot be saved, the planner should consider D. Minimize impervious areas—Keep paved areas, such as
staging construction, temporary mulching and/or parking lots and roads, to a minimum. This goes hand in
vegetation. Staging of construction involves stabilizing hand with cluster developments in eliminating the need
one part of the site before disturbing another. In this way, for duplicating parking areas, access roads, etc. The
the entire site is not disturbed at once, minimizing the more land that is kept in vegetative cover, the more water
time ground is left bare. Temporary mulching and/or will infiltrate, thus minimizing runoff and erosion.
vegetation involves seeding or mulching areas which Consider the use of special pavements which will allow
would otherwise be left bare for long periods of time; water to infiltrate, or cellular blocks which have soil and
therefore, time of exposure is limited and the erosion vegetation components.
hazard is reduced. E. Utilize the natural drainage system—If the natural
E. Adjacent Areas—Generally, the analysis of adjacent drainage system of a site can be preserved instead of
properties should focus on areas downslope or being replaced with storm sewers or concrete channels,
downstream from the construction project. Watercourses the potential for downstream damages due to increased
which will receive direct runoff from the site should be runoff can be minimized, making compliance with
of major concern; these streams should be analyzed to stormwater management criteria much easier.
determine their carrying capacity. The potential for
sediment pollution of these watercourses should be
considered as well as the potential for downstream Step 4—Planning for Erosion and Sediment
channel erosion due to increased velocity and peak flow Control
rate of storm water runoff from the site. The potential for
sediment deposition on adjacent properties due to sheet When the site facility plan layout has been developed, a
and rill erosion should also be analyzed so that plan to control erosion and sedimentation from the disturbed
appropriate sediment retention measures can be areas then is formulated. The following general procedure
planned. is recommended for erosion and sediment control
A. Divide the site into drainage areas—Determine how
Step 3—Facility Plan Development
runoff will travel over the site. Consider how erosion and
sedimentation can be controlled in each small drainage
This step does not apply to established developments. On
area before looking at the entire site. Remember, it is
the other hand, this step is relevant to those situations where
easier to control erosion than to contend with sediment
facilities are being planned and there is flexibility in their
after it has been carried downstream.
extent and location. After analyzing the data about the site
and determining any site limitations, the planner can then B. Determine the limits of clearing and grading—Decide
develop a site plan that is in harmony with the landscape. An exactly which areas must be disturbed in order to
attempt should be made to locate the buildings, roads, and accommodate the proposed construction. Pay special
parking lots and develop landscaping plans to exploit the attention to critical areas which must be disturbed. The
strengths and overcome the limitations of the site. The important point in this activity is to minimize the areas to
following are some points to consider in making these be disturbed.
decisions: C. Select erosion and sediment control measures—Erosion
and sediment control practices can be divided into 3
A. Fit development to terrain—The development of an area broad categories: vegetative measures, structural
should be tailored, as much as possible, to existing site measures, and management measures. The Alabama
conditions. This will avoid unnecessary land Handbook should be used for the selection and design of
disturbance, while minimizing the erosion hazards and vegetative and structural measures. Management
development costs. measures include items such as construction

management techniques which, if properly utilized, can February, because these months are unsuitable for
minimize the need for more costly vegetative/structural seeding and the potential for erosion and
erosion and sediment control measures. sedimentation is high.
c. Temporary seedings should be done immediately
1. Vegetative Controls—Vegetative controls should after grading.
generally be considered first, because of economics. d. On large projects, stage the construction if possible,
Usually, vegetation should be established on a so that one area can be stabilized before another is
temporary basis to minimize offsite impacts at the disturbed.
beginning of land disturbances. Vegetation protects e. Develop and carry out a regular maintenance
the soil surface from raindrop impact and overland schedule for erosion and sediment control
flow of runoff water. Vegetative measures should be measures.
maximized to provide as much erosion and sediment f. Physically mark off limits of land disturbance on
control as possible, with a minimum of structural the site with tape, signs or other methods, so the
measures. One of the simplest ways to protect the soil workers can see areas to be protected.
surface is by preserving existing ground cover where g. Make sure that all workers understand the major
protective cover already exists. Where existing provisions of the erosion and sediment control
ground cover must be removed and land disturbance plan.
is necessary, temporary seeding or mulching can be h. Responsibility for implementing the erosion and
used on areas that are to be exposed for long periods. sediment control plan should be designated to one
Erosion and sediment control plans must contain individual (preferably the job superintendent or
provisions for permanent stabilization of disturbed foreman).
areas. Selection of permanent vegetation should 4. Plan for stormwater management. Where increased
include the following considerations: runoff will cause the carrying capacity of a receiving
a. adaptability to site conditions channel to be exceeded (for a 2-year storm), the site
b. establishment requirements planner must select appropriate stormwater
c. aesthetics management measures.
d. maintenance requirements
2. Structural Controls—Structural measures are Step 5—Plan Assembly
generally more costly than vegetative controls.
However, they are necessary on areas where The necessary planning work was done in steps 1 through
vegetation alone will not control erosion. In addition, 4; therefore, this final step consists of consolidating the
structural measures are often needed in combination pertinent information and developing it into a specific
with vegetative measures as a second or third line of erosion and sediment control plan for the project. The two
defense to capture sediment before it leaves the site. It major plan components are a narrative and a site plan. The
is very important that structural measures be selected, narrative verbally explains the problems and their solutions
designed, constructed, and maintained according to with all necessary documentation. The site plan is one, or a
the standards and specifications in the Alabama series, of maps or drawings pictorially explaining
Handbook. Poorly planned or constructed structural information contained in the narrative. The following
measures can increase development costs and create checklists may be used in completing the narrative and site
maintenance problems. Structural measures that fail plan. These checklists can be used as a guide by the site
may increase erosion and sedimentation. Therefore, it planner as a ready reference to be sure all major items are
is very important that structural measures be designed included in the erosion and sediment control plan.
and installed properly.
3. Management Measures—Good construction
Checklist for Erosion and Sediment
management is as important as physical measures for
Control Plans
erosion and sediment control and there is generally
little or no cost involved. Following are some
management considerations which should be included
in the erosion and sediment control plan:
• Project description—Briefly describe the nature and
a. Sequence construction so that no area remains purpose of the land disturbing activity and the amount
exposed for unnecessarily long periods of time. of grading involved.
b. When possible, avoid grading activities during • Existing site conditions—A description of the existing
months such as July and November through topography, vegetation, and drainage.
Planning Steps and Components for Construction Site Control 77

• Adjacent areas—A description of neighboring areas TABLE 2.1.Legend of Measures for Erosion and
such as streams, lakes, residential areas, roads, etc., Sediment Control Plans (Alabama 1993).
which might be affected by the land disturbance.

Vegetative Measures
Soils—A brief description of the soils on the site giving
such information as soil names, mapping unit, BZ Buffer Zone
DU Dust Control
erodibility, permeability, depth, texture, soil structure, IR Irrigation
and any other limitations. MU Mulching
• Critical areas—A description of areas on the site which PS Permanent Seeding
have potentially serious erosion problems. TP Tree Planting on Disturbed Sites
SD Sodding
• Erosion and sediment control measures—A description SVG Shrub, Vine and Groundcover Planting
of the methods which will be used to control erosion TV Temporary Vegetation—Seeding
and sedimentation on the site. TPP Tree Preservation and Protection
• Permanent stabilization—A brief description, including Coastal Dune Measures
specifications, of how the site will be stabilized after DC Dune Crosswalk
construction is completed. DSF Dune Sand Fence
• Stormwater management considerations—Will the DV Dune Vegetation
development of the site result in increased peak rates of Structural Measures
runoff? Will this result in flooding or channel CD Check Dam
degradation downstream? If so, considerations should CS Channel Stabilization
be given to stormwater control structures on the site. CE Construction Exit
Local ordinances must be considered and met. DV Diversion
DN Downdrain Structure
• Maintenance—A schedule of regular inspections and DS Drop Structure
repair of erosion and sediment control measures should GB Gabion
be set forth. NP Inlet Protection
OP Outlet Protection
PF Paved Flume
Authors’ Note: A review of other state regulations RW Retaining Wall
indicates that this list is similar to the elements required of RT Retrofitting
the narrative section of the erosion control plans in other RR Riprap
states. Items addressed by other states include the additional SF Sediment Barrier/Fence
SB Sediment Basin
protections required if the construction site is adjacent to or RS Storm Water Retention Structure
draining to a previously-defined sensitive stream. For SX Stream Crossing
example, Pennsylvania requires additional protective SR Surface Roughening
measures for its trout-fishing streams and other TS Topsoil
WW Waterway or Storm Water Conveyance Channel
“outstanding” waterways.

Site Plan • Final contours—Changes to the existing contour

should be shown on a map.
• Vicinity map—A small map locating the site in relation • Development features—The outline of buildings, roads,
to the surrounding area. drainage appurtenances, utilities, landscaping features,
• Existing contours—The existing contours of the site parking areas, improvements, impervious areas,
should be shown on a map. topographic features, and similar man-made
• Existing vegetation—The existing tree lines, grassy installations should be shown to scale and relative
areas, or unique vegetation should be shown on a location.
map. • Limits of clearing and grading—Areas which are
• Soils—The boundaries of the different soil types should to be cleared and graded should be outlined on a
be shown on a map. map.
• Indicate north—The direction of north in relation to the • Location of measures—The locations of the erosion
site should be shown. The top of all maps should be and sediment control and stormwater management
north, if possible and practical. practices used on the site should be shown on a map,
• Critical erosion areas—Areas with potentially serious using the notation shown on Table 2.1.
erosion problems should be shown on a map. • Detail drawings—Any structural measures used that
• Existing drainage patterns—The dividing lines and the are not referenced to the manual or other local manuals
direction of flow for the different drainage areas should should be explained and illustrated with detailed
be shown on a map. drawings.

AMOUNTS OF CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY housing has increased by nearly 40 percent in the South,
SUBJECT TO EROSION AND SEDIMENT while construction starts in 1999 in the Northeast actually
CONTROL AND THEIR COSTS1 decreased by almost 13 percent from 1989 levels. Housing
starts in the Midwest also increased significantly over 1989
Historic Trends levels, while housing starts in the West remained at about the
same level as a decade earlier. Tables 2.3 and 2.4 list the
The Department of Commerce (DOC) began collecting markets having the most housing starts in 1999.
detailed information on housing starts in 1963. Data on
housing permits and starts are published monthly by the Construction Site Size Categories and Estimates
DOC and are viewed by economists as leading indicators of of Amount of Disturbed Land
economic activity. More detailed industry information is
collected through the Census of Construction Industries The Phase I and Phase II NPDES stormwater permit
(CCI), which is conducted every 5 years (in years ending in a requirements apply to construction sites of all types (i.e.,
2 or a 7) as part of the Census Bureau’s Economic Census residential, commercial, and industrial) of more than one
program. These data provide the most detailed snapshot of acre. Because the costs of erosion and sediment control are
the status of the construction industry. The CCI covers all largely driven by site size, the EPA estimated the distribution
employer establishments primarily engaged in construction. of construction sites by size category, land use type, and
Table 2.2 summarizes housing starts for the period from geographic region in order to estimate the cost of erosion
1979 to 1999. In this table, the number of construction starts controls (USEPA 2002).
is shown by regional location and type of structure. The table
also provides national totals for both single- and multifamily National Estimates of Disturbed Acreage
housing starts (BOC, 2001). As shown in the table,
single-family housing accounts for the majority of housing The EPA used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
construction starts. The number of construction starts (USDA’s) 1997 National Resources Inventory (NRI)
annually for privately-owned housing units has decreased (USDA, 2000) to estimate the level of new U.S. development
from approximately 1.7 million starts in 1979 to roughly 1.6 each year. The NRI is designed to track changes in land cover
million starts in 1999 (BOC, 2001). At the regional level, and land use over time. The inventory, conducted every five
growth rates have varied to a large degree. Construction of years, covers all non-federal lands in the U.S., which are 75

TABLE 2.2. Annual Housing Construction Starts by Type and Region (Starts are in thousands of units) (EPA, 2002).
Northeast Midwest South West
United Single- Multi- Single- Multi- Single- Multi- Single- Multi-
Year States family family family family family family family family
1979 1,745 123 55 243 106 522 225 306 165
1980 1,292 87 38 142 76 428 215 196 110
1981 1,084 84 33 110 55 363 198 148 92
1982 1,062 79 37 99 50 357 234 127 78
1983 1,703 123 45 153 65 557 378 234 148
1984 1,750 158 46 167 76 528 338 230 206
1985 1,742 182 70 148 92 504 278 239 230
1986 1,805 228 66 188 108 504 229 261 222
1987 1,621 204 65 203 95 485 149 255 165
1988 1,488 181 54 194 80 443 132 264 140
1989 1,376 132 47 190 76 409 127 272 124
1990 1,193 104 27 193 60 371 108 226 103
1991 1,014 99 14 191 42 353 62 197 57
1992 1,200 112 15 236 52 439 58 244 45
1993 1,288 116 11 251 47 498 63 261 41
1994 1,457 123 16 268 61 522 117 286 65
1995 1,354 102 16 233 57 485 130 256 76
1996 1,447 112 20 254 68 524 138 271 90
1997 1,474 111 26 238 66 507 164 278 86
1998 1,617 122 26 223 58 573 169 303 92
1999 1,641 126 29 289 59 580 167 308 84

This section is summarized from the USEPA’s Development Document for Proposed Effluent Guidelines and Standards for the Construction and Development Category, United
States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water (4303T), EPA-821-R-02-007, Washington, DC 20460 (, June 2002.
Amounts of Construction Subject to Erosion and Sediment Control and Their Costs 79

TABLE 2.3. Busiest Markets for Single-Family Housing TABLE 2.5.Acres Converted from Undeveloped to
Permits for 1999. Developed State, 1992–1997 (EPA, 2002).
Single-family Acres Converted
Housing Permits Percent Change to Development Percent
Market Area (1999) from 1998 1992–1997 Contribution
25,066 +11% (thousands), by Type of
21,290 +13% Type of Land Annual Average Land
Dallas-Ft. Worth 17,434 +6% Cropland 574.8 26.6%
Chicago 14,954 +7% Conservation Reserve Program 1.5 0.1%
Washington, D.C. 14,703 +0.07% land
Source: U.S. Housing Markets, 1999a. Pastureland 391.2 17.4%
Rangeland 245.9 11.0%
Forest land 939.0 41.9%
percent of the U.S. total land area, using land use information Other rural areas 89.1 4.0%
Water areas and federal land 1.8 0.1%
from about 800,000 statistically-selected locations. From
1992 to 1997, about 2.2 million acres per year were Total 2,243.4 100%
converted from non-developed to developed status. Table
2.5 shows the allocation of this converted land area by type
of land or land cover, while Table 2.6 shows the amount of costs can be estimated using unit cost values. Shallow
new land areas developed per year. Table 2.7 also lists the trenching (1 to 4 feet deep) with a backhoe in areas not
distribution of the construction activities by site area and requiring dewatering can be performed for $4 to $5 per cubic
land use. yard of removed material (R. S. Means 2000). Assuming no
disposal costs (i.e., excavated material is placed on either
Costs of Erosion and Sediment Controls for side of the trench), only the cost of fine grading, soil
Construction Sites treatment, and grassing (approximately $2 per square yard of
earth surface area) should be added to the trenching cost to
The following discussion summarizes some of the approximate the total construction cost. Site-specific
expected costs associated with erosion and sediment control hydrologic analysis of the construction site is necessary to
practices at construction sites, as prepared by the EPA estimate the channel conveyance requirement; however, it is
(USEPA 2002). Appendix 2A also includes selected data not unusual to have flows on the order of 2 to 4 cfs per acre
from the comprehensive report prepared by the Southeast served. For channel velocities between 1 and 3 feet per
Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), second, the resulting range in the channel cross-section area
Costs of Urban Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control can be as low as 0.67 square foot per acre drained to as high
Measures (SEWRPC 1991). In the data sets given in this as 4 square feet per acre. If the average channel flow depth is
section, the SEWRPC costs are for 1988 and 1989, while the 1 foot, then the low estimate for grassed channel installation
R.S. Means costs are for 2000. In order to convert these costs is $0.27 per square foot of channel bottom per acre served
to estimated 2005 U.S. dollars, the SEWRPC costs should be per foot of channel length. The high estimate is $1.63 per
multiplied by about 1.6, while the R.S. Means costs should square foot of channel bottom per acre served per foot of
be multiplied by about 1.1 (based on historical and projected channel length.
Consumer Price Index values). Seeding—Seeding costs range from $200 to $1,000 per
acre and average $400 per acre. Maintenance costs range
Vegetative Stabilization from 15 to 25 percent of initial costs and average 20 percent
(USEPA 1993). R. S. Means (2000) indicates the cost of
Grass-Lined Channels—Grassed channel construction mechanical seeding to be approximately $900 per acre, and

TABLE 2.4. Busiest Markets for Multifamily Housing TABLE 2.6. National Estimates of Land Area Developed
Permits for 1999. Per Year (EPA, 2002).
Multifamily Acres Adjusted
Housing Permits Percent Change Type of Total NRI Waived or NRI
Market Area (1999) from 1998 Construction Acreagea not Covered Acreageb
Dallas-Ft. Worth 8,488 −15% Residential Single-family 546,783 12,905 533,878
Orlando 7,303 +46% Multifamily 258,616 6,434 252,182
New York-Long Island 6,255 +55% Nonresidential Commercial 1,377,070 44,594 1,332,476
Puget Sound 6,122 +19% Industrial 60,932 3,412 57,523
Houston 5,900 −50% Total 2,243,400 67,345 2,176,058
Source: U.S. Housing Markets, 1999b.

demonstrates that the coverage cost varies with the seed type,
seeding approach and scale (total acreage to be seeded). For
example, hydro or water-based seeding for grass is estimated
to be $700 per acre but seeding of “field” grass species is
only $540 per acre (Costs include materials, labor, and
TABLE 2.7. Distribution of National Construction by Site equipment, with profit and overhead). If surface preparation
Size and Development Type. is required, then the installation costs increase. R. S. Means
No. of Acres by Pct. Acres suggests the cost of fine grading, soil treatment, and grassing
Site Size (Acres) Permits Size by Size is approximately $2 per square yard of earth surface area.
Single-Family Residential Sodding—Average construction costs of sod average
1 12,392 12,392 2.3%
$0.20 per square foot and range from $0.10 to $1.10 per
3 10,622 31,865 6.0% square foot; maintenance costs are approximately 5 percent
7.5 6,429 48,217 9.0% of installation costs (USEPA 1993). R. S. Means (2000)
25 8,153 203,815 38.2% indicates the sodding ranges between $250 and $750 per
70 1,398 97,831 18.3%
200 699 139,759 26.2%
1000 square feet for 1″ deep bluegrass sod on level ground,
depending on the size of the area treated (unit costs value are
Total 39,691 533,878 100.0%
for orders over 8,000 square feet and less than 1,000 square
Multifamily Residential feet, respectively). Bent grass sod values range between
1 3,120 3,120 1.2% $350 and $500 per 1000 square feet, again the lower value is
3 7,256 21,768 8.6% more likely for most construction sites because it is for large
7.5 4,426 33,196 13.2%
25 5,152 128,794 51.1% area applications. (Costs include materials, labor, and
70 726 50,792 20.1% equipment, with profit and overhead).
200 73 14,512 5.8% Mulching—The costs of seed and mulch average $1,500
Total 20,752 252,182 100.0% per acre and range from $800 to $3,500 per acre (USEPA
1993). R. S. Means (2000) estimates the cost of power
mulching to be $22.50 per 1000 square feet, for large volume
1 64,280 64,280 4.8%
3 86,029 258,086 19.4% applications. In addition, hydro- and mechanical seeding are
7.5 20,782 155,866 11.7% approximately $700 to $900 per acre. Coverage cost varies
25 21,990 549,761 41.3% with the seed type, seeding approach, and scale (total acreage
70 4,350 304,483 22.9% to be seeded). For example, hydro or water-based seeding for
200 0 0 0.0%
grass is estimated to be $700 per acre, but seeding of “field”
Total 197,431 1,332,476 100.0%
grass species is only $540 per acre. Costs include materials,
Industrial labor, and equipment, with profit and overhead. If surface
1 3,256 3,256 5.7% preparation is required, then the installation costs increase.
3 4,592 13,775 3.9% R. S. Means (2000) suggests the cost of fine grading, soil
7.5 835 6,262 10.9%
treatment, and grassing is approximately $2 per square yard
25 668 16,698 29.0%
70 250 17,532 30.5% of earth surface area.
200 0 0 0.0% Geotextiles (Netting Covering Planted Area)—Costs for
Total 9,601 57,523 100.0% geotextiles range from $0.50 to $10.00 per square yard
depending on the type chosen (SWRCP 1991). Geosynthetic
turf reinforcement mats (TRMs) are widely used for
1 83,048 83,048 3.8%
immediate erosion protection and long-term vegetative
3 108,498 325,494 15.0%
7.5 32,472 243,541 11.2% reinforcement, usually for steeply sloped areas or areas
25 35,963 899,067 41.3% exposed to runoff flows. The Erosion Control Technology
70 6,723 470,638 21.6% Council (a geotextile industry support association) estimates
200 771 154,271 7.1%
TRMs cost approximately $7.00 per square yard (installed)
Grand Total 267,475 2,176,059 100.0% for channel protection. Channel protection is one of the most
Based on permitting data from the following municipalities or counties: Austin, TX; demanding of installations (much more demanding than
Baltimore County, MD; Cary, NC; Ft. Collins, CO; Lacey, WA; Loudoun County,
VA; New Britain, CT; Olympia, WA; Prince George’s County, MD; Raleigh, NC; general coverage of denuded area). The Erosion Control
South Bend, IN; Tallahassee, FL; Tuscon, AZ; and Waukesha, TI. Source: USEPA, Technology Council estimates the cost to install a simple soil
blanket (or rolled erosion control product), seed, and
fertilizer to be $1.00 per square yard.
Vegetated Buffer Strips—Cost estimates for grassed
buffer strips can be made based on square footage using unit
cost values. R. S. Means (2000) estimates the cost of fine
Amounts of Construction Subject to Erosion and Sediment Control and Their Costs 81

grading, soil treatment, and grassing to be $2 per square yard costs are incurred to vegetate the dike. R. S. Means (2000)
of earth surface area. This cost estimate is based on estimates the cost of fine grading, soil treatment, and
application of traditional lawn seed. The cost for field seed is grassing is approximately $2 per square yard of earth surface
lower than lawn seed, reducing the coverage price. Where area. This adds approximately $6 per linear foot of dike.
gently sloping areas simply need to be grassed with Where gently sloping areas only need to be grassed with
acceptable species, the cost can be as low as $0.38 per square acceptable species, the cost can be as low as $0.38 per square
yard. yard.
Topsoiling—Topsoiling costs are a function of the price of Temporary Swale—Grassed-channel construction costs
topsoil, the hauling distance, and the method of application. can be estimated using unit cost values. Shallow trenching (1
R. S. Means (2000) report unit cost values of $3 and $4 per to 4 feet deep) with a backhoe in areas not requiring
square yard for 4 and 6 inches of top soil cover, respectively. dewatering can be performed for $4 to $5 per cubic yard of
This price is for furnishing and placing of top soil, and removed material (R. S. Means 2000). Assuming no disposal
includes materials, labor, and equipment, with profit and costs (i.e., excavated material is placed on either side of the
overhead. trench), only the cost of fine grading, soil treatment, and
grassing (approximately $2 per square yard of earth surface
area) should be added to the trenching cost to approximate
Water Handling Practices the total construction cost. It is not unusual to have flows on
the order of 2 to 4 cfs per acre served. For a design channel
Earth Dike—The cost of an earth dike depends on the velocity of 1 foot per second, the resulting range in the
design and materials used. Small dikes can cost channel cross-sectional area can be as low as 2, but as high as
approximately $2.00 per linear foot, while larger dikes can 4 square feet per acre drained. If the average channel flow
cost approximately $2.00 per cubic yard. The EPA states that depth is 1 foot, then the low estimate for grassed channel
an earth dike can cost approximately $4.50 per linear foot installation is $0.74 per square foot of channel bottom per
(NAHB undated). An alternative means to estimate acre served per foot of channel length. The high estimate is
conceptual costs for earthen dikes is to use unit cost values $1.48 per square foot of channel bottom per acre served per
and a rough estimate of the quantities needed. Shallow foot of channel length. Table 2.8 summarizes additional
trenching (1 to 4 feet deep) with a backhoe in areas not costs of grass swales.
requiring dewatering can be performed for $4 to $5 per cubic Temporary Storm Drain Diversions—Depending on the
yard of removed material (R. S. Means 2000). Based on this size of the construction site, a temporary storm drain
value, $2 per linear foot provides for 11 square feet of flow diversion’s costs can include those associated with materials
area and $4.50 per linear foot provides for 24 square feet of needed to construct the diversion and sediment trap or basin
flow area. Based on standards for Virginia (VDCR 1995), (mainly piping, concrete, and gravel), and also labor costs for
most small drainage areas (made up of 5 acre or less), installation and removal of the system, all of which may
diversion dikes are approximately 18-in tall, with a 4.5-ft involve excavation, regrading, and inspections. Cost
base. Assuming the excavation volume equals the volume of estimates can be based on unit cost values along with
the dike, the resulting excavation volume is approximately 7 site-specific quantity estimates. R. S. Means (2000) indicates
cubic feet per linear foot, which (conservatively) equates to a range of pipe costs for surface placement, between $5.00
$1.03 to $1.30 per linear foot for construction costs. per linear foot for 4″ diameter PVC piping, and $9.20 per
If the earthen dikes are to be permanent, then additional linear foot for 10″ diameter PVC piping. On construction

TABLE 2.8. Average Annual Operation and Maintenance Costs for a Grass Swale.
$ for Swale Size: $ for Swale Size:
0.5 m Deep 1 m Deep
Estimated 0.3 m Bottom Width 1 m Bottom Width
Component Unit Cost ($) 3 m Top Width 7 m Top Width Comments
Mowing 0.89/100 m2 145.0 241.0 Mow 2–3 times per year
General grass care 8.8/100 m2 162.98 274.0 Grass maintenance is
(top width + 3 m) x length
Debris/litter removal 0.51/m2 93.0 93.0
Reseeding/ fertilization 0.35/m2 5.9 10.37 Area revegetated is 1% of
maintenance area per year
Inspection and general administration 0.74/m2 231.0 231.0 Inspection once per year
Total 638.0 850.0
Source: Ellis, 1998

sites, temporary inlets and outlets are usually formed by installing the basin ranges from $0.10 to $0.40 per cubic foot
small rock-lined depressions. Assuming 4 cubic yards of of storage (about $550 per acre of drainage). The average
crushed rock (1.5″ mean diameter) per opening, an inlet and cost for basins with greater than 50,000 cubic feet of storage
outlet combine to add approximately $200 per pipe is approximately $0.30 per cubic foot of storage (USEPA,
installation, based on $25 per cubic yard of stone (R. S. 1993).
Means 2000). As an alternative costing method, designers can use cost
Stone Check Dam—The cost of check dams varies based curves developed for permanent basins used to manage
on the material used for construction and the width of the stormwater from urban areas. However, since permanent
channel to be dammed. In general, it is estimated that check stormwater basins typically include design features that
dams constructed of rock cost about $100 per dam (USEPA, would not be included in temporary sediment basins, this
1992). Brown and Schueler (1997) estimated rock check approach is expected to greatly overestimate the actual costs
dams would cost approximately $62 per installation, to construct sediment basins. For many sites, sedimentation
including the cost for filter fabric bedding. Other materials, basins installed for erosion and sediment control during the
such as logs and sandbags, may be a less expensive construction phase are retained/modified to meet other
alternative, but they might require higher maintenance runoff management requirements. As a result, the
costs. sedimentation basins’ installation costs are partially offset by
a later cost reduction or savings. Work by the Center for
Watershed Protection (CWP, 1996) provides capital cost
Sediment Trapping Devices equations for different types of sediment basins for
permanent installations. For example, dry extended
Silt Fence—There is a wide range of data on installation detention ponds:
costs for silt fences. The EPA estimates these costs at
approximately $6.00 per linear foot (USEPA, 1992) while CC = 8.16 (Vs)0.78
SWRPC estimates unit costs between $2.30 and $4.50 per
linear foot (SWRPC, 1991). Silt fences have an annual
maintenance cost that is 100 percent of the installation cost and for all ponds regardless of type (including wet
(Brown and Schueler, 1997). These values are significantly ponds):
greater than that reported by R. S. Means (2000), which
indicates a 3 foot tall silt fence installation cost between CC = 20.18 (Vs)0.70
$0.68 and $0.92 per linear foot (for favorable and
challenging installations). It should be noted that the R. S. where,
Means value covers just a single installation, without the
expected costs of maintenance (e.g., removal of collected CC = base construction cost, not including design,
sediment). In addition, the type of silt fence fabric employed engineering, and contingencies
will also affect the total installation costs. Vs = Storage volume below the crest of the emergency
Sediment Trap—The cost of installing temporary spillway, in cubic feet
sediment traps ranges from $0.20 to $2.00 per cubic foot of
storage (about $1,100 per acre of drainage). For a recent Design, engineering, and contingency costs are given as
national assessment, USEPA (1999) estimated the following approximately 32 percent of the base construction costs.
costs for sediment traps, which vary as a function of the Base construction costs for permanent ponds are composed
volume of storage: $513 for 1,800 cubic yards, $1,670 for of approximately 48 percent excavation/grading cost, 36
3,600 cubic yards, and $2,660 for 5,400 cubic yards. In percent control structure cost, and 16 percent appurtenances
addition, it has been reported that a sediment trap has an cost. R. S. Means (2000) suggests the cost to remove the
annual maintenance cost of 20 percent of the installation cost eroded sediment collected in a small basin during
(Brown and Schueler 1997). construction is approximately $4 per cubic yard (value
Sediment Basins—Sediment basins have an estimated 25 includes a 100 percent surcharge for wet excavation). The
percent annual maintenance cost as a percentage of cheapest management of dredge material is application to
installation (Brown and Schueler, 1997). If constructing a land areas adjacent to the basin, followed with application of
sediment basin with less than 50,000 cubic feet of storage a vegetative cover.
space, the cost of installing the basin ranges from $0.20 to
$1.30 per cubic foot of storage (about $1,100 per acre of
drainage). The average cost for basins with less than 50,000 Other Control Practices
cubic feet of storage is approximately $0.60 per cubic foot of
storage (USEPA, 1993). If constructing a sediment basin Rock Outlet Protection—R. S. Means indicates
with more than 50,000 cubic feet of storage space, the cost of machine-placed riprap costs of approximately $40 per cubic
Amounts of Construction Subject to Erosion and Sediment Control and Their Costs 83

yard. For a riprap maximum size between 15 and 24 inches, a Polyacrylamide (PAM)—The cost of PAM ranges from
cubic yard of riprap will cover between 13.5 and 17 square $1.25 per pound to $5.00 per pound (Entry, et al. 1999). The
feet of a channel bed. This suggests that riprap lining will be cost of PAM application depends on the system employed.
between $21 and $27 per square foot of outlet (includes PAM can be used in a centralized treatment system (e.g., at a
materials, labor, and equipment, with overhead and profit). sedimentation basin) to treat larger areas, or dispersed in
R. S. Means (2000) provides a cost range for gabions ($2.80 granular or liquid form. In Tobiason, et al. (2000), the startup
to $9 per square foot of coverage) for stone fill depths of 6 costs for the batch treatment system amounted to $90,000.
inches to 36 inches, respectively. These costs include all Monthly expenses averaged $18,000 for operations and
costs of materials, labor, and installation. maintenance and $13,000 for materials and equipment. The
Sump Pit—R. S. Means (2000) provides information total costs for this phase totaled about $245,000, less than 1
appropriate for assessment of a wide range of dewatering percent of total construction costs. If dispersed through
scenarios (i.e., different sump sizes, dewatering durations, irrigation systems, the seasonal cost of PAM treatment is $9
and discharge conditions). In general, installation of earthen to $15 per acre (Kay-Shoemake, et. al. 2000), where a season
sump pits is estimated as costing approximately $1.50 per probably requires between 5 and 10 applications.
cubic foot of sump volume. Costs for piping to and from the For construction sites, it is more likely that PAM would be
sump ranges from $30 to $60 per linear foot. Pump rentals applied as an additive to the hydroseed mix and applied when
and operation range between $150 and $500 per day of final grade is established and cover vegetation is installed.
pumping, depending on the rate of dewatering. All costs There are numerous suppliers who provide PAM as a low
include material, labor, and equipment, with overhead and cost additive for hydroseeding, suggesting PAM application
profit. costs can be incorporated into that of hydroseeding ($540 to
Stabilized Construction Entrance—Without a wash rack, $700 per acre depending on which seed is applied). An
construction site entrance stabilization costs range from additional cost would be incurred to sample site soils to
$1,000 to $4,000. On average, the initial construction cost is customize the dosage and delivery mechanisms for
around $2,000 per entrance. When maintenance costs are individual sites. In addition, re-application of PAM in
included, the average total annual cost for a 2-year period, is granular or liquid form to areas with rill development (poor
approximately $1,500. If a wash rack is included in the vegetation cover) may be necessary. Where re-application of
construction site entrance stabilization, the initial granular PAM is used, R. S. Means (2000) suggests a cost of
construction costs range from $1,000 to $5,000, with an approximately $5 per 1,000 square feet for spreading soil
average initial cost of $3,000 per entrance. Total annual cost, admixtures by hand.
including maintenance for an estimated 2-year life span, is
approximately $2,200 per year (USEPA, 1993).
Temporary Access Waterway Crossing—In general, Extent of Erosion Control Effort for Different
temporary bridges are more expensive to design and Development Types
construct than culverts. Bridges are also associated with
higher maintenance and repair costs should they fail. The EPA estimated a reference or standard application
Temporary bridging costs range as a function of the width of effort for each erosion and sediment control that could be
the bridge span and the duration of application. If the applied for different types of land development (e.g., 621
bridging is permanent, a mean cost of $50 per square foot for feet of silt fence for a 3-acre single-family residential
an 8-foot wide steel arch bridge (no foundation costs construction site) to meet their proposed option 2 discharge
included) can be used for conceptual cost estimation (R. S. limits. Reference quantities of various erosion and
Means, 2000). If rental bridging is employed, then rates are construction controls are listed in Tables 2.9 through 2.17,
probably on the order of 20 to 50 percent of the bridge along with unit costs and the assumptions used in EPA’s
(permanent) cost, but will range based on the rental duration compliance cost assessment. Note that for some controls,
and mobilization distance. reference quantities are given in terms of the number of units
Storm Drain Inlet Protection—The cost of implementing that will be constructed (i.e., the number of construction
storm drain drop inlet protection measures will vary entrances anticipated for a certain size site). In addition,
depending on the control measure chosen. Generally, initial where unit costs are nonlinear (i.e., the unit cost varies with
installation costs range from $50 to $150 per inlet, with an the size of the unit), both a design quantity and a number of
average cost of $100 (USEPA, 1993). Maintenance costs can units per site size class are required to estimate costs. An
be high (annually, up to 100 percent of the initial example of this is for sediment basins, where the total
construction cost) because of frequent inspection and repair volume (the site size in acres times 3,600 cubic feet per acre)
needs. The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning is apportioned into a number of installations (i.e., a 70-acre
Commission has estimated that the cost of installation of site is estimated to have 2 installations). This process helps
inlet protection devices ranges from $106 to $154 per inlet ensure that any economies of scale in the calculation of
(SEWRPC, 1991). compliance costs are reasonable.

TABLE 2.9. Quantities of Sit Fencing and Diversion Dikes for Different Land Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002).
Feet of Silt Fence Feet of Diversion Dike
Site Size
(acres) Single-family Multi-family Commercial Industrial Single-family Multi-family Commercial Industrial
1 – – – – – – – –
3 621 722 361 361 621 722 361 361
7.5 1,553 1,143 600 600 1,553 1,143 600 600
25 5,175 3,129 2,087 2,087 5,175 3,129 2,087 2,087
50 14,490 5,238 3,492 3,492 14,490 5,238 3,492 3,492
200 41,400 8,853 5,902 5,902 41,400 8,853 5,902 5,902
Both silt fencing and diversion dike lengths were based on 207 feet per acre on the site.
Costs for new installation of silt fence are based on $0.92/ft length, excluding profit and overhead (R.S. Means, 2000).
Costs for new installation of diversion ditch are based on $0.55/ft length installation, excluding profit and overhead (R.S. Means, 2000).

TABLE 2.10. Quantities of Mulched Area for Different Land TABLE 2.11. Amount of Land Treated with PAM for
Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002). Different Land Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002).
Mulched Acreage to Control Acres Treated with PAM
Site Size Single- Multi- Site Size Single- Multi-
(acres) family family Commercial Industrial (acres) family family Commercial Industrial
1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
3 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 3 0.84 1.32 1.50 1.50
7.5 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 7.5 2.10 3.29 3.75 3.75
25 6.3 6.3 6.3 6.3 25 7.00 10.96 12.50 12.50
50 17.5 17.5 17.5 17.5 50 19.60 30.70 35.00 35.00
200 50.0 50.0 50.0 50.0 200 56.00 87.72 100.0 100.0
For sites larger than 1 acre, mulching is limited to the site acreage times half the PAM is costed at $200 per acre per treatment based on a survey of commercial
percentage of ultimate impervious area as a temporary means to stabilize denuded vendors and assuming costs are similar to herbicide for soil treatment ($0.04 per
surfaces. The maximum coverage is set to 25% of the total site acreage. Cost to square yard without profit and overhead based on spraying from truck). The acreage
mulch is set to $0.20 per square yard for materials/installation without overhead and treated is equal to the site size times the ultimate impervious percentage, to a
profit (R.S. Means 2000). maximum of 50% of the site size.

TABLE 2.12. Numbers of Stone Check Dams and Sediment Traps for Different Land Development Scenarios
(USEPA, 2002).
The Number of Equal Size Units Installed to Provide Required Protection
Number of Stone Check Dams Number of Sediment Trap
Site Size
(acres) Single-family Multi-family Commercial Industrial Single-family Multi-family Commercial Industrial
1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1
7.5 10 10 10 10 1 1 1 1
25 35 35 35 35 0 0 0 0
50 50 50 50 50 0 0 0 0
200 100 100 100 100 0 0 0 0
Amounts of Construction Subject to Erosion and Sediment Control and Their Costs 85

TABLE 2.13. Numbers of Sediment Basins for Different TABLE 2.14. Numbers of Construction Entrances for
Land Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002). Different Land Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002).
Number of Sediment Basins Number of Construction Entrances
Site Size Single- Multi- Site Size Single- Multi-
(acres) family family Commercial Industrial (acres) family family Commercial Industrial
1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
3 0 0 0 0 3 1 1 1 1
7.5 1 1 1 1 7.5 1 1 1 1
25 2 2 2 2 25 1 1 1 1
50 2 2 2 2 50 2 2 2 2
200 4 4 4 4 200 4 4 4 4
Sediment pond of 3,600 cubic feet per acre served. Cost in dollars is computed from Costs for construction entrance based on $6.92 per square yard (gravel installed) for a
the equation: [0.76 × 7.47 × (volume required, cubic feet/number of ponds per site footprint covering 100 square yards, excluding profit and overhead (R.S. Means,
size)0.78]. The value of 0.76 removes overhead and profit from cost estimate. 2000).

TABLE 2.16. Numbers of Site Certifications for Sediment

TABLE 2.15. Numbers of Site Inspections for Different Basins for Different Land Development Scenarios
Land Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002). (USEPA, 2002).
Administrative BMPs for Erosion and Sediment Control
Administrative BMPs for Erosion and Sediment Control
E&S Site Inspection
E&S Site Certification of Sedimentation Basins
Site Size Single- Multi-
Site Size Single- Multi-
(acres) family family Commercial Industrial
(acres) family family Commercial Industrial
1 0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0
3 1 1 1 1
3 1 1 1 1
7.5 1 1 1 1
7.5 1 1 1 1
25 2 2 2 2
25 1 1 1 1
50 7 7 7 7
50 2 2 2 2
200 20 20 20 20
200 4 4 4 4
E&S Inspection includes multiple site visits by a certified inspector to verify the
E&S Site Certification includes multiple site visits by a certified inspector to verify
proper installation and operation of ESC BMPs. Values above are the number of
the proper installation of sedimentation basins. Costs based on 2 hours of
half-day site inspections. Costs are based on 16 hours of inspection/documentation
inspection/documentation by a licensed engineer per 10-acre-unit of a site, at a rate of
time per 10-acre-unit of a site, at a rate of $28.44 per hour.
$56.74 per hour.

TABLE 2.17. Phasing Activities for Different Land

Development Scenarios (USEPA, 2002).
Phasing of Construction
Site Size Single- Multi-
(acres) family family Commercial Industrial
1 0 0 0 0
3 0 0 0 0
7.5 0 0 0 0
25 2 2 2 2
50 6 6 6 6
200 19 19 19 19
For sites larger than 10 acres, the number of remobilizations required is based on a
maximum of 10 acres denuded at any single time to prevent large unstabilized
construction sites. Costs are based on $1,000 per remobilization.

REFERENCES USEPA. Development Document for Proposed Effluent Guidelines and

Standards for the Construction and Development Category. United
States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water (4303T).
Alabama. Alabama Handbook For Erosion Control, Sediment Control, And
EPA-821-R-02-007. Washington, DC 20460 (
Stormwater Management On Construction Sites And Urban Areas,
waterscience/guide/). June 2002.
produced by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee
Montgomery, AL, July 1993. VDCHR (Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Historic Resources). Erosion
and Sediment Control Handbook. Third Edition. Division of Soil and
BOC. New Privately Owned Housing Units Started: Annual Data, 2001.
Water Conservation. Richmond, Virginia. 1992.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, DC. http://www.census.
gov/const/startsan.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2002. 2001. VDCR (Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation). Virginia
Erosion & Sediment Control Field Manual. Second Edition, Division of
Brown, W. and T. Schueler. The Economics of Stormwater BMPs in the
Soil and Water Conservation, Richmond, VA. 1995.
Mid-Atlantic Region. Prepared for: Chesapeake Research Consortium.
Edgewater, MD. Center for Watershed Protection, Ellicott City, MD. VDCR. Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook. Second Edition. Division
1997. of Soil and Water Conservation. Richmond, Virginia. 1980.
BRPC (Birmingham Regional Planning Commission). Best Management WI DNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). Wisconsin
Practices for Controlling Sediment and Erosion from Construction Construction Site Best Management Practice Handbook, revised.
Activities. Birmingham, Alabama. 1980. Madison, WI. 1994.

CWP (Center for Watershed Protection). Design of Stormwater Filtering

Systems. Prepared for Chesapeake Research Consortium, Solomons,
MD, and U.S. EPA Region 5, Chicago, IL, by Center for Watershed PROBLEMS
Protection, Ellicott City, MD. 1996.
Entry, J.A., and R.E. Sojka. Polyacrylamide Application to Soil Reduces the 1. After locating a site for project study, obtain a copy of
Movement of Microorganisms in Water. In 1999 Proceedings of the the erosion and sediment control regulations that govern
International Irrigation Show, Irrigation Association, Orlando, FL,
November 9, 1999, pp. 93–99. 1999.
the on-site practices. Who has the authority to approve
Kay-Shoemake, J, M. Watwood, R. Sojka, and R. Lentz. “Soil Amidase
the plans? Who has the authority to enforce the plans?
Activity in Polyacrylamide (PAM) Treated Soils and Potential Activity Are they the same entity? What is the scheduled
toward Common Amide Containing Agrochemicals”. Biology and inspection frequency for the site?
Fertility of Soils 31(2): 183–186. 2000.
R.S. Means. Site Work & Landscape Cost Data, 19th Edition. R.S. Means 2. Find out from the regulatory agency that approved the
Co., Kingston, MA, 2000. plan who is the responsible party. Contact the
SEWRPC (Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission). Costs of responsible party and obtain agreement to use the site for
Urban Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control Measures, Technical
Report #31. Waukesha, WI. June 1991.
a class project. If agreement cannot be obtained, repeat
Tobiason, S., D. Jenkins, E. Molash, and S. Rush. “Polymer Use and Testing
problems 1 and 2, or obtain permission from instructor to
for Erosion and Sediment Control on Construction Sites: Recent still use the site, but without the specific information.
experience in the Pacific Northwest”. In: Proceedings of Conference 31. The site will need to be highly visible from public access
International Erosion Control Association. Palm Spring, CA, February areas. It may be possible to obtain copies of the erosion
21–25, 2000, pp. 41–52. 2000. control plan and site maps from the regulatory agency.
U.S. Housing Markets. Busiest Markets, Single-family Building. Meyers
Real Estate Information, Inc. (
mulbuzz.html). Accessed October 25, 2000. 1999a.
3. On your site, perform a preliminary inventory of the
U.S. Housing Markets. Busiest Markets, Multifamily Construction. Meyers
erosion-control measures that have been installed. Are
Real Estate Information, Inc. ( the erosion and sediment control categories discussed in
mulbuzz.html). Accessed October 25, 2000. 1999b. this chapter considered?
USDA. 1997 National Resources Inventory. U.S. Department of
Agriculture, National Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC. 4. Compare the approved erosion and sediment control
( 2000. plan with actual site conditions (try to find a site that will
USEPA. Stormwater Management for Construction Activities: Developing release a copy of the erosion-control measures map/plan,
Pollution Prevention Plans and Best Management Practices. EPA
832-R-92-005. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water,
or where a plan is available from the review agency). Are
Washington, DC. 1992. the measures located where the plan writer described for
USEPA. Stormwater Management for Industrial Activities: Developing each measure? If not, speculate why not. For example,
Pollution Prevention Plans and Best Management Practices. EPA did site conditions require revision of the plan and the
832-R-92-006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, “final” location of these structures/measures?
Washington, DC. 1992.
USEPA. Guidance Specifying Management Measures for Sources of 5. Given your site plan, estimate the cost of the erosion
Nonpoint Pollution in Coastal Waters. EPA 840-B-92-002. U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC.
control measures listed/described on the plan. If the data
1993. is available, compare the cost of erosion and sediment
USEPA. Economic Analysis of the Final Phase II Stormwater Rule. U.S. control to the overall cost of the project. What
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Wastewater Management. percentage of the project is represented by the erosion
Washington, DC. 1999. control costs?
Important Internet Links 87

IMPORTANT INTERNET LINKS Alabama on-line soil surveys available to download

(only a few counties):
The following Internet Links are referenced in Chapter 2.
These sites should be visited to obtain additional
information. Some of the locator addresses will likely EPA Region 4 Nonpoint Source Information
change, but the material can still likely be located using a
search tool. EPA “Surf you Watershed” (compiled water and watershed
Alabama Department of Environmental Management information for your watershed)
(ADEM), Nonpoint Program
USGS “Science in your Watershed” (additional water and
watershed information)
Jefferson County Stormwater Management, Inc.
Microsoft TerraServer maps (maps and aerial photographs
Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee for most of US)
Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee NOAA Data and Information Server (many linked
(Sediment and Erosion Control Handbook): environmental databases)
Geological Survey of Alabama
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40 (environmental
Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA 199840

Example Site Description for Final Plan 740′. The creek will be rerouted through a 13 foot culvert and
covered with approximately 20 feet of fill in order to move
The following is excerpted from a homework assignment Green Valley Road. Green Valley Road will be moved to the
prepared by Heather Hill, a student at the University of center of the site basically where the existing dirt/gravel road
Alabama at Birmingham, as part of the Construction Site is and extend north to join the existing Green Valley Road.
Erosion and Sediment Control Class taken during the The west end of the site where Green Valley Road is going to
summer of 2005. This assignment was to prepare a site be removed will be part of the final development.
description for a construction site erosion control plan for a
construction site that has been studied during the class Topography and Soils
The current topography is not the original topography of
the site. For years, material ranging from soil to trees to
Site Description concrete rubble has been disposed of on this site. The
Jefferson County Soil Survey describes the soils in this area
The Cahaba Village development is located on the north as the Nauvoo-Townley-Montevallo Association. The
side of Highway 280 in the city of Mountain Brook in Leesburg Series is cobbly fine sandy loam on the surface,
Jefferson County, Alabama. It is bordered to the south by and the subsoil is clay loam. Rock outcrops consist of
Highway 280, the west and north by Green Valley Road and Sandstone. Nauvoo-Montevallo Series consists of numerous
to the east by woods and housing. The site has been a linear, roughly parallel, low mountains and ridges that
dumping ground for numerous soil and rubble materials. extend from the southwest to the northeast across the county.
There is a mound of dirt and debris on the east side of the site. The Nauvoo-Montevallo is underlain by sandstone and shale
A dirt/gravel road runs through the middle of the site. tilted and dipping to the southeast with 10% to 40% slopes.
Two-thirds of the way into the site going north is a tributary The north side of the site is made of a rock ridge of shale and
to the Little Shades Creek, which flows west to east. sandstone. The natural soils at the site are silt and clay and
The Cahaba Village is a 16-acre development and will residuum from the shale and sandstone. Water drains from
consist of a large grocery store with parking on the east side the rock ridge down to the creek and off of the mound
and a strip mall and high-rise condominiums on the west towards the creek. The creek enters the site on the west end
side. The site will be leveled to approximately Elevation and flows to the east and exits the site north of the pile.

USGS topographic map.

Drainage Patterns sparsely vegetated, as well as the entrance road. The creek
area has dense vegetation growing on the slopes. The
The drainage basin for the site is approximately 675 acres. western side has been undisturbed and has mature trees and
The site is at the bottom of the drainage basin. Water flows shrubs over it. The rock ridge on the north side is
off of the large ridge to the north about a half mile away and sporadically vegetated with kudzu and small trees able to
into the Little River Creek. Drainage on the site flows from grow on the steep slope.
the north into the creek and from the south into the creek.
None of the runoff flows onto Highway 280. Adjacent Property

Ground Cover To the north of the site, on the north side of Green Valley
Road is a residential area, and also on the east side of the site.
The ground cover over the site ranges from bare soil and The south side of the site is adjacent to Highway 280, and the
rock to densely vegetated slopes. The mound of dirt is west side is adjacent to Green Valley Road. An old (100
Important Internet Links 89

years +) water supply line runs east-west across the site and
almost parallel to the creek.

Construction Phases

Phase I

The first phase of construction consists of constructing a

13′ diameter corrugated metal pipe to channel the flow of the
tributary of Little Shades Creek that runs through the site. In
order to do this, a culvert pipe will be placed in the stream to
allow access to the other side of the creek, and a series of
pump systems have to be installed for water quality. A road
will then be cut on the north side to access the creek. Another
road will be cut from Green Valley Road to access the stream
and install the pump.
The appropriate erosion control measures will be installed Silt fences will be installed around the outside of the
at each of the areas to maintain sediment runoff. Silt fences mound to prevent sediment runoff onto Highway 280. Silt
will be installed on each side of the new cut roads. A holding Fences will also be installed on the north side where the road
pond will receive all of the runoff from the active will be cut to prevent runoff into the creek bed.
construction areas. Disturbed areas not under active
construction will be seeded and temporarily mulched. Phase II
A culvert will be placed in the creek to allow traffic to
reach the north side of the creek. A road will be cut parallel to Phase II will be site grading. While the 13′ diameter
the creek to access the creek and install a pump and a 12 inch culvert is being installed, the mound of dirt is being
pipe to divert the water from where it enters the site back to excavated and sieved to acquire suitable backfill for the site.
where it exits. A road will be cut from Green Valley Road to The final site grading will consist of covering the 13′
the south along the ridge to install the pump to divert the diameter culvert with approximately 25′ of backfill and
water. An impermeable diversion dam was installed where taking the mound down to original or near original grade at
the creek enters the site in order to prevent the flow of water approximately Elevation 740′. The entire site will be fairly
onto the site. A holding pond will be installed to the north of flat with mainly parking lots, roads and buildings. Green
the mound and to the south of the creek to collect site runoff Valley Road will be rerouted to come down the center of the
water. The water in the holding pond will then be pumped to site and the current Green Valley Road will become part of
the detention pond to settle the sediments out and then the commercial development.
released into the natural drainage area. The site will be graded to drain to the southeast to the
A turning lane and curbs will be installed on Highway 280. detention pond. The site will be almost level, with an
The areas that are disrupted will be seeded and mulched approximately 1% grade. The material in the mound will be
temporarily. The area will later be landscaped with sod, sieved to obtain the appropriate structural fill. An area of
shrubs, and trees. approximately one acre will be undisturbed on the west side

near the existing Green Valley Road-Highway 280 potential runoff from the site onto the road. The wooded area
intersection. Also, the majority of the area to the east of the to the east should not be impacted. The water from the
detention pond and continuing to the north will be left detention basin will be released toward this area, but will
undisturbed and the site contours will be graded to them. travel over a jute mesh and then into the creek bed. The water
will be released slowly into the creek.
Phase III
Facility Plan Development
Phase III of construction will be fine-grading the site to
prepare for the foundations of the building, road and parking The creek on the site will flow through a 13-foot culvert
lot base, and areas to be landscaped. pipe generally along the original creek flow path. This area
The final stage of development will leave very little area to will then be covered to allow for the site construction
be vegetated. The majority of the site will be buildings and grading. The site will be flat with approximately a 1% slope
asphalt roads and parking lots. The front entrance will be to allow drainage to the detention pond. The creek will
landscaped and the northern extents will be graded and release at the same elevation it previously did and the water
sodded. from the detention pond will drain down the original slope
back into the creek. The water from the detention pond will
Data Analysis have reduced sediment.

The site is sparsely vegetated near the road and mound of Erosion and Sediment Control Plan
dirt. Outside of that area, the site is moderately to densely
vegetated. The road and mound are actually fairly stable with Phase I—Preparation for Culvert Installation
a small amount of erosion features. However, the steepness
of the mound and the northern ridge line, as well as the A small culvert will be installed in the creek to access the
channel walls of the creek makes these areas a high erosion north side of the property and silt fences will be installed on
hazard potential. The rest of the area is fairly flat, thus having each side to prevent sediment runoff into the creek. Once the
a low erosion hazard potential. road is cut on the north side of the stream, silt fences will be
However, once the site construction for Phase I starts, the installed along the south side of the road/the north side of the
area beneath the ridge will be cleared to create a road and a
road was cut to access the top of the mound. Silt fence will be
installed along the south edge of the road on the north side of
the creek to divert flow toward the collection pond. Silt fence
will also be installed around the mound to divert flow from
going to Highway 280. All runoff will be diverted to the
detention pond on the east side of the site.
The final grading contours are relatively flat for the
buildings, parking lots, and roads and therefore have low
erosion hazard potential. The slopes on the north side of the
site will be steep at a 2:1 slope and therefore have high
erosion hazard potential.
The majority of the soils at the site are not the native soils.
The soil in the mound will be sieved and used as backfill for
the site. The backfill soil is mainly silty clay. All debris will
be removed from the soil and disposed of off site.
Approximately 10% of the site will be undisturbed.
Approximately 70% of the site will be graded and paved or
have a building on it. The remaining 20% will consist of
landscaping areas, vegetated/protected slopes, and the
detention pond. Temporary mulching and seeding will be
used during the interim to reduce erosion potential.
Adjacent areas that may be affected are Highway 280 and
the wooded area to the east. Highway 280 should not be
affected due to the grading of the area adjacent to 280, but
during construction, heavy rain may cause runoff onto
Highway 280. A drainage system will be installed along
Highway 280 to collect runoff from the road and thus any
Important Internet Links 91

Phase II—Site Grading

Phase II will coincide with Phase I, and the same erosion

control measures will be in place. The material in the mound
will be sieved and the sieved material will be used for
backfill. The sieved material will be placed on site and silt
fences will be placed around the piles to control runoff. The
creek. An impermeable diversion dam, 15′ wide, 29′ long site will be graded to almost level and runoff will be directed
and 5′ high, will be installed in the creek to back up flow for to the detention pond.
the pump to divert water to the other end. The diverted
water will then be released into a riprap area, flow into a Phase III—Final Grading
small settling basin, and then released to the existing creek
bed. The site will be graded to accommodate buildings, parking
Once the turn lanes are installed on Highway 280, the lots, and roads mainly. These areas will be graded to drain to
disrupted area will be graded, seeded, and mulched sewer systems that dump into the detention pond. The
temporarily. The grassed area in the median of Highway 280 landscaped area in the front, adjacent to Highway 280 will be
will have an excelsior blanket placed on it to assist in landscaped with sod, shrubs, and trees. Silt fences will be
permanent vegetation. This area on the site will be regraded installed at the eastern end where the slope splits and the
again at the end of the project. water leaves the site instead of flowing into the detention
The detention pond will be constructed on the east side of pond. At the north side of the site, the slopes will be graded to
the site and seeded to reduce erosion. A split pipe 2:1 and armored with North American Green SC150B. The
flocculation system will be installed at the head of the pond toe of the slope will be lined with silt fences. The surfaces
to reduce the sediment flow into the pond and protect the will be graded to drain to a sewer inlet that dumps into the
slope from scour. detention pond.


The following tables are from Technical Report #31, Costs of Urban Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Control Measures.
Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Waukesha, WI. June 1991. The costs reported in the tables in this
appendix are mostly from the 1988 and 1989 construction period. To adjust for 2005 costs, multiply by approximately 1.6 (based
on long-term inflation factors, but not different locations).

TABLE 2A.1. Reported Costs of Selected Construction Erosion Control Measures

(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Measure Unit Number of Reported Costs Minimum Maximum Mean
Temporary Seeding Square yard 8 $0.08 $0.12 $0.10
Mulching Square yard 91 0.10 1.00 0.30
Sodding Square yard 117 1.40 10.10 2.40
Filter Fabric Fence Lineal foot 290 0.60 8.00 3.40
Straw Bale Barrier Bale 136 5.00 12.00 9.20
Source: City of Madison, Wisconsin; City of West Bend, Wisconsin, Crispell-Snyder Consulting Engineers; GeoSynthetics, Inc.; Hornburg Contractors; Ruekert & Mielke, Inc;
Terra Engineering; Wisconsin Department of Transportation; and SEWRPC.

Unit Capital Costs for Selected

Construction Erosion Control Measures
(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost
Component Unit Low Moderate High
Temporary Seeding Square yard $0.05 $0.10 $0.20
Temporary Seeding Pound 1.80 4.60 7.40
Mulching Square yard 0.10 0.30 0.50
Sodding Square yard 1.20 2.40 3.60
Filter Fabric Fence Lineal foot 2.30 3.40 4.50
Straw Bale Barrier Bale 7.80 9.20 10.60
Inlet Protection Device Inlet 106.00 130.00 154.00

TABLE 2A.3. Estimated Capital Cost of a 1.5-Foot-Deep Diversion Swale (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 11.81 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $24.80 $43.70 $62.59
Place and Compact Fill Cubic yard 11.81 0.60 1.10 1.60 709 12.99 18.90
Grading Square yard 144.4 0.10 0.20 0.30 14.44 28.88 43.32
Site Development
Salvaged Topsoil
Seed, and Mulch Square yard 72.2 $0.40 $1.00 $1.60 $28.88 $72.20 $115.52
Sod Square yard 72.2 1.20 2.40 3.60 86.64 173.28 259.92
Subtotal — — — — — $162.00 $331.00 $500.00
Contingencies Swale 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $41.00 $83.00 $125.00
Total — — — — — $202.00 $414.00 $625.00
Note: Swale height is from top of dike to bottom of channel. Dike top width equals channel bottom width of two feet. Swale has an assumed length of 100 feet with 3:1 side slopes.
Appendix 2-A. Costs of Control Options at Construction Sites 93

TABLE 2A.4. Estimated Capital Cost of a 3.0-Foot-Deep Diversion Swale (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 36.11 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $75.83 $133.61 $191.38
Place and Compact Fill Cubic yard 36.11 0.60 1.10 1.60 21.67 39.72 57.78
Grading Square yard 244.4 0.10 0.20 0.30 24.44 48.88 73.32
Site Development
Salvaged Topsoil
Seed, and Mulch Square yard 122.2 $0.40 $1.00 $1.60 $48.88 $122.20 $195.52
Sod Square yard 122.2 1.20 2.40 3.60 146.64 293.28 439.92
Subtotal — — — — — $162.00 $331.00 $500.00
Contingencies Swale 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $79.00 $159.00 $240.00
Total — — — — — $397.00 $79700 $1,198.00
Note: Swale height is from top of dike to bottom of channel. Dike top width equals channel bottom width of two feet. Swale has an assumed length of 100 feet with 3:1 side slopes.

TABLE 2A.5. Estimated Capital Cost of a 3.0-Foot-Deep Sediment Trap (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 117 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $246.00 $433.00 $620.00
Site Development
Crushed Stone Fill Cubic yard 1.8 $14.80 $19.40 $24.00 $26.60 $34.90 $43.20
Filter Fabric Square yard 6.7 1.00 2.00 3.00 6.70 13.40 20.10
Subtotal — — — — — $279.00 $481.00 $683.00
Contingencies Sediment trap 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $70.00 $121.00 $171.00
Total — — — — — $349.00 $602.00 $854.00
Note: Trap has an assumed surface area of 1,000 square feet.

TABLE 2A.6. Estimated Capital Cost of a 5.0-Foot-Deep Sediment Trap (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 926 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $1,954.00 $3,426.00 $4,908.00
Site Development
Crushed Stone Fill Cubic yard 3 $14.80 $19.40 $24.00 $44.40 $58.20 $7200
Filter Fabric Square yard 11 1.00 2.00 3.00 11.00 22.00 33.00
Subtotal — — — — — $2,400.00 $4,383.00 $5,013.00
Contingencies Sediment trap 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $600.00 $877.00 $1,253.00
Total — — — — — $3,000.00 $4,383.00 $6,266.00
Note: Trap has an assumed surface area of 5,000 square feet.

TABLE 2A.7. Estimated Capital Cost of a 0.1-Acre Sedimentation Basin (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 462 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $970.00 $1,709.00 $2,449.00
Place and Compact Fill Cubic yard 310 0.60 1.10 1.60 186.00 341.00 496.00
Site Development
Basin Inlet Basin 1 $1,310.00 $2,870.00 $4,430.00 $1,310.00 $2,870.00 $4,430.00
Basin Outlet Basin 1 1,320.00 3,380.00 5,440.00 1,320.00 3,380.00 5,440.00
Riprap Cubic yard 2.42 16.40 29.60 42.80 39.70 71.60 104.00
Subtotal — — — — — $3,826.00 $8,372.00 $12,919.00
Contingencies Basin 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $956.00 $2,093.00 $3,230.00
Total — — — — — $4,782.00 $10,465.00 $16,149.00
Note: Basin has side slopes of 3:1 and a depth of five feet.

TABLE 2A.8. Estimated Capital Cost of a 0.25-Acre Sedimentation Basin (SEWRPC, 1991; Multiply By 1.6 For 2005 Costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 1,509 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $3,169 $5,583 $7,998
Place and Compact Fill Cubic yard 1,011 0.60 1.10 1.60 607 1,112 1,618
Site Development
Basin Inlet Basin 1 $1,310.00 $2,870.00 $4,430.00 $1,310 $2,870 $4,430
Basin Outlet Basin 1 1,320.00 3,380.00 5,440.00 1,320 3,380 5,440
Riprap Cubic yard 6.1 16.40 29.60 42.80 100 181 261
Subtotal — — — — — $6,506 $13,126 $19,747
Contingencies Basin 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $1,627 $3,282 $4,937
Total — — — — — $8,133 $16,408 $24,684
Note: Basin has side slopes of 3:1 and a depth of five feet.

TABLE 2A.9. Estimated Capital Cost of a 1.0-Acre Sedimentation Basin (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Unit Cost Total Cost
Component Unit Extent Low Moderate High Low Moderate High
Site Preparation
Excavation Cubic yard 7,252 $2.10 $3.70 $5.30 $15,229 $26,832 $38,436
Place and Compact Fill Cubic yard 4,859 0.60 1.10 1.60 2,915 5,345 7,774
Site Development
Basin Inlet Basin 1 $1,310.00 $2,870.00 $4,430.00 $1,310 $2,870 $4,430
Basin Outlet Basin 1 1,320.00 3,380.00 5,440.00 1,320 3,380 5,440
Riprap Cubic yard 24.2 16.40 29.60 42.80 397 716 1,036
Subtotal — — — — — $26,464 $48,929 $71,395
Contingencies Basin 1 25 percent 25 percent 25 percent $5,293 $9,786 $14,279
Total — — — — — $26,464 $48,929 $71,395
Note: Basin has side slopes of 3:1 and a depth of five feet.

TABLE 2A.10.Annual Maintenance Unit Costs for Construction Erosion

Control Measures (SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Annual Maintenance
Cost Expressed As
Percentage of Unit Annual
Measure Capital Cost Maintenance Cost
Temporary Seeding and Mulching 25 $0.12/square yard
Sodding 5 $0.12/square yard
Filter Fabric Fence 100 $3.40/lineal foot
Straw Bale Barrier 100 $9.20/bale
Inlet Protection Device 100 $123/inlet
Diversion Swale 20 $1.50–5.20/lineal foot
Sediment Trap 20 $1.00–1.80/lineal foot
Sedimentation Basin 25 $1.50–3.25/cubic yard
Appendix 2-A. Costs of Control Options at Construction Sites 95

TABLE 2A.11. Construction Component Unit Costs for Urban Nonpoint Pollution Control Measures
(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Installation Costs
Description Unit Material Labor Equipment Cost Total Cost Year of Cost Comments
Site Clearing
Clear and Grub
Light Acre — $ 865.00 $ 850.00 $ 510.00 $2,225.00 January 1989 All trees are cut
Medium Acre — 1,225.00 1,225.00 750.00 3,200.00 and chipped
Heavy Acre — 2,875.00 2,850.00 1,725.00 7,450.00
Clear and Grub
Light Acre — $ 283.12 $ 365.00 $ 256.01 $904.13 Mid-1988 —
Medium Acre — 943.73 1,216.67 853.36 3,013.76
Heavy Acre — 3,147.20 4,144.00 2,863.99 10,155.19
Clear Brush
By Hand Acre — $ 1,125.00 $ 430.00 $ 620.00 $2,175.00 January 1989 —
With Brush Saw Acre — 540.00 205.00 305.00 1,050.00
Clear Trees
<24 Inches Each — $ 118.87 $52.17 $86.25 $257.29 Mid-1988 —
>24 Inches Each — 178.30 78.25 129.39 385.94
By Hand Cubic yard — $ 40.64 — $30.66 $71.30 Mid-1988 —
Dozer Cubic yard — 0.46 $0.91 0.53 1.90
≤1,000 Foot Haul Cubic yard — 0.30 0.82 0.41 1.53
>1,000 Foot Haul Cubic yard — 0.30 0.88 0.41 1.59
To Five-Foot Depth Cubic yard $0.50 $ 5.33 $ 2.77 $4.70 $13.30 Mid-1988 —
To 10-Foot Depth Cubic yard 0.50 3.04 1.58 2.74 7.86
By Hand Cubic yard — — 40.64 30.66 71.30 Mid-1988 —
Common Excavation Cubic yard — — — — $2.82 1983 Average
2.00–5.00 Typical range
Loam, Sand, and Gravel Cubic yard — $ 0.24 $0.30 $0.24 $0.78 Mid-1988 Two-and-one-half
Compacted Gravel and Till Cubic yard — 0.26 0.33 0.27 0.86 cubic yard power
Hard Clay and Shale Cubic yard — 0.32 0.40 0.33 1.05 shovel
Loam, Sand, and Gravel Cubic yard — $ 0.17 $0.07 $0.07 $0.38 Mid-1988 Two-cubic-yard
Compacted Gravel and Till Cubic yard — 0.18 0.07 0.16 0.41 front end loader
Hard Clay and Shale Cubic yard — 0.23 0.09 0.19 0.51
Excavation: Structure
Common Earth Cubic yard — $ 3.63 $4.78 $2.24 $10.65 January 1989 3/4 Cubic Yard
Common Earth Cubic yard — 3.03 4.97 1.95 9.95 One-Cubic-Yard
Common Earth Cubic yard — 2.27 4.44 1.54 8.25 1-1/2-Cubic-Yard
Common Earth Cubic yard — 1.63 4.46 1.26 7.35 Two-Cubic-Yard

TABLE 2A.11 (continued). Construction Component Unit Costs for Urban Nonpoint Pollution Control Measures
(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Installation Costs
Description Unit Material Labor Equipment Cost Total Cost Year of Cost Comments
Backfill By Hand
Light Soil Cubic yard — $ 9.65 — $ 4.85 $14.50 January 1989 No compaction
Heavy Cubic yard — 12.25 — 6.20 18.45
Backfill: Compaction
Light Soil Six Inches Deep
Hand Tamp Cubic yard — $16.20 — $8.15 $24.35 January 1989 —
Roller Compaction Cubic yard — 12.06 $0.67 6.10 18.83
Light Soil 12 Inches Deep
Hand Tamp Cubic yard — 13.61 — 6.84 20.45
Roller Compaction Cubic yard — 11.25 0.45 5.68 17.38
Heavy Soil Six Inches Deep
Hand Tamp Cubic yard — 18.80 — 9.50 28.45
Roller Compaction Cubic yard — 14.66 0.67 7.45 22.78
Heavy Soil 12 Inches Deep
Hand Tamp Cubic yard — 16.21 — 8.19 24.40
Roller Compaction Cubic yard — 13.85 0.45 7.03 21.33
Earth Fill
Borrow Fill
One Mile Haul Cubic yard $3.67 $0.44 $1.17 $0.72 $6.00 January 1989 Compact and
Select Fill Shape
One Mile Haul Cubic yard 5.75 0.44 1.17 $0.89 8.25
>One Mile Haul Cubic yard — — — — 0.60
Compacted Gravel Fill
Four Inches Deep Square feet $0.11 $ 0.09 $0.01 $0.05 $0.26 January 1989 —
Six Inches Deep Square feet 0.17 0.10 0.01 0.0.7 0.35
Nine Inches Deep Square feet 0.25 0.12 0.02 0.09 0.48
12 Inches Deep Square feet 0.33 0.14 0.02 0.10 0.59
Crushed Stone Fill
1-1/2 Inches Cubic yard $14.00 $ 0.87 $ 2.34 $2.04 $19.25 January 1989 —
3/4 Inches to 1-1/2 Inches ton 9.10 — — 0.90 10.00
Stone Fill
One to Two Inches Deep Cubic yard — — — — $22.50 1983 Average
15.00–25.00 Typical range
Stone Tamping Cubic yard — — — — $2.00 1983 Average
Pea Gravel Fill Cubic yard $14.40 $16.00 — $8.60 $38.00 January 1989 —
Cubic yard — — — — 7.50 1983 Average
Clean Washed Sand Fill Square feet $12.95 $0.87 $2.34 $1.94 $18.10 January 1989 —
Square feet — — — — 14.00 1983 Average
1,000 Feet One Way Cubic yard — $0.23 $0.52 $0.29 $1.04 Mid-1988 —
2,000 Feet One Way Cubic yard — 0.27 0.67 0.54 1.28
1,000 Feet One Way Cubic yard — 0.44 0.74 0.49 1.67
2,000 Feet One Way Cubic yard — 0.47 0.82 0.52 1.81
Six Cubic Yard Dump Truck
1/4 Mile Round Trip Cubic yard — 0.59 1.12 0.04 2.11 January 1989 —
1/2 Mile Round Trip Cubic yard — 0.71 1.37 0.49 2.57
Appendix 2-A. Costs of Control Options at Construction Sites 97

TABLE 2A.11 (continued). Construction Component Unit Costs for Urban Nonpoint Pollution Control Measures
(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Installation Costs
Description Unit Material Labor Equipment Cost Total Cost Year of Cost Comments
Shovel. Backhoe. or
3/4 Cubic Yard Each — $39.00 $175.00 $41.00 $255.00 January 1989 —
1-1/2 Cubic Yard Each — 47.00 210.00 48.00 305.00
Pond Linings
Plain PVC Sheets
10 mils Thick Square feet $0.10 $0.54 — $0.35 $0.99 January 1989 —
20 mils Thick Square feet 0.21 0.55 — 0.37 1.13
30 mils Thick Square feet 0.32 0.56 — 0.39 1.27
PVC Mineral Fiberback
45 mils Thick Square feet $0.70 $0.57 — $0.43 $1.70 January 1989 —
Waterproof Membrane
Two-Ply Square yard $5.41 $10.16 — $8.80 24.37 Mid-1988 —
Three-Ply Square yard 5.82 12.70 — 10.80 29.32
Filter Fabric
Minimum Square feet $0.26 — — $0.03 $0.29 January 1989 —
Maximum Square feet 0.30 — — 0.03 0.33
Filter Cloth Square feet — — — — $2.71 1983 Average
2.00–5.00 Typical range
PVC Pipe
10-Foot Length
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $1.22 $1.32 — $0.79 $0.33 January 1989
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot 1.75 1.38 — 0.87 4.00
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 2.80 1.67 $0.26 1.12 5.85
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — $10.00 1983 Average
8.00–12.00 Typical range
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — 10.50 Average
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — 15.00 Average
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $2.65 $0.79 — $1.15 $4.59 Mid-1988
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot 4.48 0.83 — 1.57 6.88
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 7.19 0.89 — 2.17 10.25
Perforated PVC Pipe
10 Foot Length
Four-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $0.57 $1.23 — $0.68 $2.48 January 1989 —
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 1.22 1.32 — 0.79 3.33
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot 1.75 1.38 — 0.87 4.00
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 2.80 1.67 $0.26 1.12 5.85
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $2.65 $0.79 — $1.15 $4.59 Mid-1988
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot 4.48 0.83 — 1.57 6.88
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 7.19 0.89 — 2.17 10.25 —
Six-Inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — $10.00 1983 Average
8.00–12.00 Typical range
Eight-inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — 10.50 Average
10-Inch Diameter Lineal foot — — — — 15.00 Average

TABLE 2A.11 (continued). Construction Component Unit Costs for Urban Nonpoint Pollution Control Measures
(SEWRPC, 1991; multiply by 1.6 for 2005 costs).
Installation Costs
Description Unit Material Labor Equipment Cost Total Cost Year of Cost Comments
Reinforced ConcretePipe
(Class 111)
15-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $7.31 $2.06 $1.17 $3.32 $13.86 Mid-1988 Gasket joints
18-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 9.08 3.31 1.88 4.81 19.08 eight-foot lengths
21-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 10.73 3.42 1.95 5.24 21.34
24-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 15.20 4.14 2.36 6.81 28.51
Reinforced ConcretePipe
(Class 111)
15-Inch Diameter Lineal foot $7.50 $3.15 $0.48 $2.37 $13.50 January 1989 Gasket joints
18-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 9.45 3.67 0.56 2.87 16.55
24-Inch Diameter Lineal foot 14.80 5.50 0.85 3.85 25.00
Riprap Broken Stone
Random Placement Cubic yard $9.20 $5.25 $6.35 $4.20 $25.00 January 1989 Machine placed
for protection
3/8-1/4 Cubic Yard Pieces Square yard 16.10 12.70 5.75 8.45 43.00 Grouted
18-Inch MinimumThickness Square yard 11.50 19.20 8.70 11.60 51.00 Not grouted
Porous Pavement
Two-Inch-Thick Surface Square yard — — — — $6.60 1976 12-inch sub-base
Two to Four Inches Thick Square yard $1.58 — — — — 1983
Grassed Driveways
(porous surfaces) Cubic yard — — — — $70.00 1976 Brick lattices,
gravel filled,
covered with top
>400 Square Yards Square yard $0.98 $0.85 $0.17 $0.56 $2.56 January 1989 —
100 Square Yards Square yard 1.36 1.07 0.22 0.70 3.35
50 Square Yards Square yard 1.95 1.14 0.23 0.80 4.12
400 Square Yards Square yard 1.03 1.19 0.24 0.72 3.18
Mechanical Seeding Acre $410.00 $435.00 $165.00 $290.00 $1,300.00 January 1989 —
Square yard 0.08 0.09 0.03 0.06 0.26 Includes fertilizer
and lime
Fine Grade/Seed Square yard 0.15 0.85 0.17 0.48 1.65
Push Spreader
Grass Seed 1,000 $8.60 $0.67 $0.26 $1.22 $10.75 January 1989 —
square feet
Limestone 1,000 2.05 0.67 0.26 0.58 3.56
square feet
Fertilizer 1,000 5.40 0.67 0.26 0.92 7.25
square feet
Level Areas Acre 578.21 149.30 80.63 251.00 1,059.14 Mid-1988 —
Sloped Areas Acre 578.21 238.88 129.00 328.75 1,274.84
Hay Acre $255.76 $74.65 $40.31 $118.50 $489.22 Mid-1988 —
Square yard — — — — 0.58 1983 Average
0.25–1.00 Typical range
Note: Total cost includes operation and maintenance, taxes, insurance, and other contingencies.

Regional Rainfall Conditions and Site Hydrology for

Construction Site Erosion Evaluations

INTRODUCTION: HYDROLOGY FOR THE DESIGN period or in just one hour. The duration of the rain (and the
OF CONSTRUCTION EROSION CONTROLS peak intensity) directly affect the runoff rates.
The size of the storm is often described by the length of
chapter provides an overview of hydrology analysis time over which precipitation occurs, the total amount of
appropriate for the design of construction site precipitation occurring and how often this same storm might
erosion controls. The NRCS’s TR-55 procedure will be used be expected to occur or be exceeded (frequency). Thus, a
in this chapter, as it provides most of the needed information 10-year, 24-hour storm can be thought of as a storm
and is generally applicable to conditions found on most producing the amount of rain in 24 hours with a 10% chance
construction sites. of occurrence in any given year.
The reference list contains the URL for an on-line copy of
TR-55, Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds by the U.S. Antecedent Moisture Content
Dept. of Agriculture/Soil Conservation Service (now NRCS)
(1986). Recently, a Windows version of TR-55 (WinTR55) The runoff from a given storm is affected by the existing
has become available (beta version) that can be used to soil moisture content resulting from the precipitation
greatly simplify these calculations, and that appropriate URL preceding the event of interest (defined as a five day period
is also given. TR-55 provides a good set of tools to determine by the NRCS). This has a much smaller effect in areas having
a number of hydrology parameters needed for effective mostly paved surfaces. On construction sites, this factor can
design of construction site erosion controls. The following be important, at least in areas where substantial soil
list shows typical controls and the types of hydrology compaction has not occurred.
information needed for complete evaluations and design
(later chapters will review and present examples of how this Surface Cover
information is used in these designs):
The type of cover and its condition affects the runoff
• Mulches—water velocities and water depth volume through its influence on the infiltration rate of soil.
• Ditch liners—water velocities and water depth Bare soil at a construction site generates more runoff than
• Slope down shoots—peak flow rates forested or grass land for a given soil type. As a site develops,
• Diversion dikes and swales—peak flow rates paving areas reduce the surface storage and infiltration
• Filter fabric fences—water velocities and hydrographs capacity of the area and thus increases the amount of runoff.
• Sediment ponds—water volume and hydrographs The foliage and its litter maintain the soils infiltration
potential by preventing the sealing of the soil surface from
Factors Affecting Runoff the impact of the raindrops. Some of the raindrops are
retained on the surface of the foliage, increasing their chance
Rainfall of being evaporated back to the atmosphere. Some of the
intercepted moisture is so long draining from the plant down
The temporal extent of the storm and the distribution of to the soil that it is withheld from the initial period of runoff.
rainfall during the storm are two major factors which affect Foliage also transpires moisture into the atmosphere, thereby
the peak rate of runoff. The storm distribution can be thought creating a moisture deficiency in the soil which must be
of as a measure of how the rate of rainfall (intensity) varies replaced by rainfall before runoff occurs. Vegetation,
within a given time interval. If a certain amount of including its ground litter, forms numerous barriers along the
precipitation was measured in a given 24-hour period, this path of the water flowing over the land surface, which slows
precipitation may have occurred over the entire 24-hour the water down and reduces its peak rate of runoff.


Soils duration of 5 min) would be about 8.6 in/hr for

Birmingham, AL.
In general, the higher the rate of infiltration, the lower the • If the Tc for this same return period was 40 min, the
quantity of stormwater runoff. Fine textured soils, such as peak rain intensity would be “only” 3.8 in/hr.
clay, produce a higher rate of runoff than do coarse textured
Figure 3.1 illustrates the relationships between watershed
soils, such as sand. In addition, compacted soils also produce
topography, slopes, and drainage times (McCuen 1989). The
much more runoff than natural soils (Pitt, et al. 1999). Sites
“iso-time” plot indicates the times for water to travel to the
having clay soils are much more susceptible to compaction
watershed outlet from all locations in the watershed. This is a
problems than most other soils.
complete, but tedious, method to determine Tc. The Tc for
this watershed is seen to be 13 minutes.
Time of Concentration (Tc or tc )
An area-time plot for this watershed example is shown in
Figure 3.2 (McCuen 1989). In this example, 13 minutes is the
The time of concentration (Tc) is the minimum time
watershed time of concentration, but almost all of the
needed for runoff originating from the complete project site
watershed area is contributing runoff at 9 or 10 minutes. The
to arrive at the outlet. By definition, Tc is the time required
very small additional area contributed by the increased
for water to flow from the hydraulically most-distant point in
travel time would normally not compensate for the
the watershed to the outlet. When rain events last at least as
increased Tc used in calculating the peak flow rate for this
long as the Tc, the outlet is receiving runoff from the entire
watershed. The time of concentration affects the peak and
Generally, only a rain duration equal to the Tc produces the
shape of the hydrograph. With land clearing and subsequent
maximum peak runoff rate at the critical rain intensity.
development, the drainage efficiency usually dramatically
Shorter duration rains do not produce runoff from the
increases, resulting in much greater peak runoff values that
complete area, while longer duration rains do not have any
occur earlier in the storm. In addition, land development (and
additional contributing areas, as shown on Figure 3.3.
soil compaction) decease the infiltration capacity of the site,
Rains having durations equal to the Tc must be used in
further increasing the runoff volume and the peak runoff rate.
drainage designs as they produce the critical intensity for the
Important aspects of Tc to remember include the
area and the level of service (likelihood of failure in any one
year), as indicated on Figure 3.4. Longer duration rains have
• The design storm duration must be equal to the time of lower intensities for the same level of service, while shorter
concentration for the drainage area. duration rains do not have the complete drainage area
• The time of concentration (Tc) is equal to the longest contributing flows during that time period. It is important
flow path (by time). that the same rain frequency (level of service associated with
• If the Tc is 5 min for a storm having a return period of the acceptable failure rate) be used when examining
25 years, the associated peak intensity (which has a alternative durations and rain intensities.

Figure 3.1. Relationships between water topography, slope, and drainage times (McCuen 1989, with permission).
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Design 101



The following discussion is an example assessment of

typical Alabama rain conditions to determine the frequency
of highly erosive rains and the relative importance of various
rains in generating construction site erosion yields. Figures
3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 show the general variations of rain
conditions over Alabama. These figures were prepared by
Pitt and Durrans (1995) as part of a research project for the
Alabama Dept. of Transportation. These analyses used data
from the 1976 and 1977 rain period. These two years were
determined to be representative of the average conditions
from 1948 through 1994 based on total rain depth and the
monthly distribution of rains. These data were obtained from
Figure 3.2. Area of watershed contributing runoff as a function of flow
travel time (Tt) (McCuen 1989, with permission). EarthInfo (Golden, CO) CD-ROMs, which archive the
official NOAA data. Figure 3.5 is a contour map of the total
annual rain depth throughout Alabama, based on analyses at
more than 120 rain gage stations located in Alabama and in
surrounding states (rain gauges represented on Figure 3.5 by
dots). There is little variability in rain conditions over most
of the state (50 to 56 inches per year). The northwest corner
has less rain (down to about 46 inches), while the rain depth
increases substantially moving towards the Gulf Coast (as
high as 66 inches per year). There are usually slightly more
than 100 separate rain events per year in Alabama (defined

Figure 3.3. Hydrographs associated with different rain durations related to

watershed Tc.

Figure 3.4. The critical rain intensity is only associated with the duration Figure 3.5. Annual rainfall depths throughout Alabama in inches (Pitt and
equal to the watershed time of concentration. Durrans, 1995).

Figure 3.6. Probabilities (expressed as percents) of individual rain storms having various rain depths in Alabama (Pitt and Durrans, 1995).
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Design 103

(a) Probabilities of rains having at least 3-day antecedent dry periods. (b) Probabilities of rains having at least 15-day antecedent dry

Figure 3.7. Probabilities (expressed as percents) for average rain storm interevent periods for Alabama (Pitt and Durrans, 1995).

using a minimum of 6 hours for the interevent period), with having no rain. This definition has been commonly used in
the smallest rains being 0.01 inches and the largest many urban runoff studies as it produces discrete runoff
approaching 10 inches. Figure 3.6 presents the percentages hydrographs. The six-hour period of no rain also almost
of these annual rains having at least 0.25, 1.00, 2.5, and 5.00 always allows urban streams to return to near baseflow
inches. Few, if any, of the rains are likely greater than 5 conditions. Tables 3.1 and 3.2 summarize these rains.
inches in the central and northern portions of the state, but Table 3.1 lists the expected rainfall distribution for typical
several rains greater than this amount likely occur each year Birmingham conditions. There are about 100 individual
near the coast. At least 40 to 50% of all rains are at least 0.25 rains per year in Birmingham, ranging from 0.01 to about 4
inches in depth throughout the state. Figure 3.7 shows the inches in depth. Most of the rains are less than 0.5 inches in
percentages of all storm interevent periods that are at least 3 depth, but more than onehalf of the total annual rain depth is
and 15 days. Most interevent periods are about 3 days associated with rains greater than one inch. Rain interevent
throughout the state, but few last as long as 2 weeks, periods are important when determining the periods of time
especially near the gulf coast. that bare ground may remain unprotected at construction
sites. The interevent periods shown on this table are for all
Typical Birmingham Rain Conditions rains greater than the minimum rain in the range. As an
example, rains greater than 2 inches occur about every 56
Monthly rain depths from 1955 to 1986 were examined to days, while rains greater than 0.5 inch occur about every 10
identify a single rain year that had total depths and rain days.
distributions similar to the longterm average conditions. The Table 3.2 summarizes the runoff quantities that may be
years 1975 and 1976 both were found to have similar rain expected for each rain depth class, for a typical construction
conditions that were close to these average conditions. site area, without significant compaction. More than half of
Individual events in these years were identified using hourly the runoff from this area is associated with rains less than 1.5
rain records. A rain event was defined as a series of hourly inches in depth. Less than 20 percent of the runoff is
observations containing no more than six adjacent hours associated with rains greater 2.5 inches in depth. Only rains

TABLE 3.1. Birmingham Rain Depth Distributions (average for 1975 and 1976).
Rain Depth Range Interevent Annual Number of Rains in Range Total Rain in Range % of Annual Accumulative %
(inches) Period (days) (out of 100 rains per year) (inches) Rain in Range of Rain in Range
0.01 to 0.5 4 62 15.5 25 25
0.5 to 1.0 10 19 14.3 23 48
1.0 to 1.5 21 9 11.3 17 65
1.5 to 2.0 41 3 5.3 8 73
2.0 to 2.5 56 3 6.8 10 83
2.5 to 3.0 122 2 5.5 8 91
3.0 to 3.5 183 1 3.5 3 94
3.5 to 4.0 365 1 3.8 6 100

greater than about 1.25 inches will contribute runoff for Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and
quantities greater than 0.5 inches, a commonly used Mobile were extracted from EarthInfo CD-ROMS (Golden,
detention criterion contained in runoff control ordinances. CO) and processed in WinSLAMM (
The first 0.5 inch of runoff from all rains therefore includes to combine the hourly data into individual rain records. Each
all rains smaller than about 1.25 inches, plus portions of rain was defined as having at least a 6-hour-dry interevent
larger rains. The remaining runoff, after the first 0.5 inch, period. About 50 years of data were available for each city,
totals about 5.5 inches for typical construction areas using although some of the records were incomplete. The number
the 1975 and 1976 Birmingham rains. of events evaluated for each city ranged from about 2500 to
5200 separate rains. The calculations were made for each of
12 rain categories and the total annual R was estimated by
Erosion Yields for Different Alabama Rain multiplying the partial R for each category by the number of
Categories events in each category. The calculated annual R values for
these 5 cities were slightly larger (differences of 6 to 34%)
It is possible to estimate the relative erosion contributions than the published annual R values. The main reason for
of different rains, as shown in Tables 3.3 through 3.5. these differences is that the published annual R values are
Thronson (1973) presented the following equation to median values based on many years of record where R values
estimate the erosion potential for individual rains, when were calculated for individual years, while the R values used
complete intensity information is not available: here were averaged values, which would be larger. The
calculated R values for each category were therefore adjusted
19.25(P) 2. 2 to indicate the approximate portion of the total annual R
( dur) 0. 4672 associated with the different rain categories.
Figure 3.8 is a plot of the accumulative total R associated
where, with the rains. The larger rains contribute most of the erosion
P = rain depth (inches) potential for Alabama conditions. For all of these cities,
dur = rain duration (hours) except Mobile, the rain depth associated with the median of
the annual R is about 2 inches, while it is about 2.5 inches for
This equation was proposed for the original SCS type II Mobile. About 5% of the annual rains are therefore
rain category which was applicable for the complete U.S., responsible for about half of the annual erosion potential.
except for the extreme west coast. Long-term rain series data Rains less than about 0.75 to 1 inches in depth are

TABLE 3.2. Birmingham Runoff Volume Distributions for Typical Construction Site.
Volumetric Runoff Annual Runoff in % of Runoff Accumulative % of
Rain Depth Range (inches) Coefficient (Rv) Range (inches) in Range Runoff in Range
0.01 to 0.5 0.27 4.2 19 19
0.5 to 1.0 0.34 4.9 22 41
1.0 to 1.5 0.36 4.1 17 58
1.5 to 2.0 0.39 2.0 9 67
2.0 to 2.5 0.41 2.8 11 78
2.5 to 3.0 0.44 2.4 10 88
3.0 to 3.5 0.45 1.5 4 92
3.5 to 4.0 0.48 1.8 8 100
Total, or weighted average 0.36 23.7 100
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Design 105

TABLE 3.3. Erosion Potential Analysis for Birmingham Rains Occurring from 1948 through 1999.
Rain range Mid Point Average Average #/year in Range % of Rains in % of Annual R Accumulative
(inches) Rain (inches) Duration (hours) Intensity (in/hr) Category Category Thronson R in Category % of Total R
0.01 to 0.05 0.03 3 0.01 22.9 20.7 0.1 0.0 0.0
0.06 to 0.10 0.08 7 0.01 17.4 15.8 0.4 0.1 0.1
0.11 to 0.25 0.18 8 0.02 17.3 15.6 2.4 0.7 0.8
0.26 to 0.50 0.38 10 0.04 19.5 17.6 12.4 3.5 4.4
0.51 to 0.75 0.63 12 0.05 9.4 8.5 16.6 4.8 9.1
0.76 to 1.00 0.88 14 0.06 8.3 7.5 28.6 8.2 17.3
1.01 to 1.50 1.26 16 0.08 7.9 7.2 56.4 16.1 33.4
1.51 to 2.00 1.76 18 0.10 3.8 3.5 53.9 15.4 48.8
2.01 to 2.50 2.26 20 0.11 1.6 1.5 38.0 10.9 59.7
2.51 to 3.00 2.76 24 0.12 0.8 0.7 26.3 7.5 67.2
3.01 to 4.00 3.5 30 0.12 1.1 1.0 57.0 16.3 83.5
over 4.01 5.67 36 0.16 0.4 0.4 57.9 16.5 100.0
4583 events 41.5 years 13.58 in. max rain Totals 110.5 100.0 350.0 100.0

responsible for only about 10% of the total erosion potential. Table 3.4 shows the variation in frequency of these large
About 20 to 30% of the rains (generally between 0.75 and 4 rains for the 1948 through 1999 rain period for Birmingham
inches) are associated with about 80% of the erosion (41.5 years of data due to some missing data periods).
potential. Because of the long rain record used here, these Between 1 and 8 (an average of 4.1) of these large rains occur
rain series include several rare events, including the each year, but no obvious pattern is indicated in the group in
“50-year” event. It may be impractical to design erosion terms of predicting the number of large rains in any given
controls that can effectively withstand the very large events. year. Table 3.5 examines these highly erosive rains for each
Except for Mobile, rains greater than 4 inches occur less than month of the year for this same Birmingham rain period.
once a year in most parts of the state. If a “typical” rain year May through November appears to have fewer of these rains.
was examined, the effects of these very large rains would be However, September had the largest number of any month,
somewhat diminished. When only the 1976 rain year for which is not unexpected for any area whose rainfall
Birmingham was examined (a typical year for local rains), distribution is influenced by tropical storms. August and
for example, the rain depth associated with the median September are considered the most-active months for the
erosion potential was reduced to about 1.75 inches. These development and sustenance of tropical weather (the
calculations are repeatable for any location, provided that Atlantic hurricane season is considered to peak in
sufficient rainfall records are available. The longer rain September).
records typically contain “rare” events that, while
uncommon and difficult to plan for, may affect the erosion
yield and cause damage to the site that would require TABLE 3.4. Number of Large Rains (>2 inches)
substantial regrading. per Year for Birmingham.
Year #/Year Year #/Year Year #/Year
1948 4 1962 4 1976 7
1949 2 1963 6 1977 8
1950 7 1964 8 1978 3
1951 6 1965 2 1979 2
1952 2 1966 5 1980 3
1953 4 1967 6 1981 3
1954 3 1968 5 1982 5
1955 1 1969 6 1983 1
1956 3 1970 5 1984 4
1957 8 1971 4 1985 4
1958 2 1972 3 1986 5
1959 2 1973 5 1987 1
1960 1 1974 3 1988 6
1961 6 1975 5 1999 2
total = 172 large storms from 1948 through 1999
average = 4.1 large storms/year
minimum = 1 large storms/year
maximum = 8 large storms/year
standard deviation = 2.0
Figure 3.9. Distribution of erosion potential associated with different rains
COV = 0.49
for major Alabama cities.

TABLE 3.5. Birmingham Rains by Months. depth and duration being equaled or exceeded within a
pre-specified time frame, typically one year. The IDF curve
2.00 to 2.51 to 3.01 to over for Birmingham, as displayed in Figure 3.9, shows this
2.50 3.00 4.00 4.01 Total
relationship for durations up to 60 min. As seen in this figure,
January 7 2 4 4 17
rains having average intensities of almost 3 inches per hour
February 7 2 4 1 14
March 9 5 5 2 21 lasting for 30 minutes are expected to occur with a 50 percent
April 5 1 5 1 12 probability every year. Five minute peak rain intensities of
May 7 4 4 1 16 more than 6 inches per hour also occur with a probability of
June 6 0 5 0 11
at least 50 percent every year. Table 3.6 lists the approximate
July 5 2 2 2 11
August 4 5 1 1 11 rain depths (inches) and average rain intensities (inches per
September 9 7 5 1 22 hour) associated with rain, durations from 1 to 24 hours and
October 0 3 5 1 9 return frequencies of 1 to 100 years for Birmingham. Also
November 8 1 1 1 11
shown on this table are three maximum probable events,
December 6 2 6 3 17
associated with 6, 12, and 24 hour rain durations. A review of
Total for 41.5 years 73 34 47 18 172
of record
the extreme-event data demonstrates that it would be very
Average (#/year) 1.8 0.8 1.1 0.4 4.1

TABLE 3.6. Rare Birmingham Rain Conditions.

Probability (P, Rain Intensity
Intensity, Duration and Frequency (IDF) Duration % occurrence Frequency Rain Depth (inches per
Information for Rains Used to Design (hours) per year) (1/P, years) (inches) hour)
Erosion Controls 1 100 1 1.5 1.5
2 100 1 1.9 1.0
3 100 1 2.1 0.7
As noted above, rains having high intensities typically 6 100 1 2.5 0.4
contribute the highest erosion yields. Individual rains that 12 100 1 3.0 0.3
24 100 1 3.5 0.1
may occur at any time of the year can contribute excessive
erosion losses. Very rare rains, occurring at most only once 1 20 5 2.3 2.3
2 20 5 2.8 1.4
every year and usually much less frequently, typically 3 20 5 3.1 1.0
receive the most attention for flooding and drainage studies. 6 20 5 3.8 0.6
When these rare rains do occur, great erosion yields will 12 20 5 4.5 0.4
24 20 5 5.3 0.2
occur and most erosion and sediment control devices will
fail. As an example, Figure 3.9 (the IDF curve for 1 10 10 2.6 2.6
Birmingham, AL) shows the relationship between rainfall 2 10 10 3.3 1.7
3 10 10 3.5 1.2
duration, peak intensity, and return period. (Note: The return 6 10 10 4.3 0.7
period of a storm is defined as the inverse of the probability 12 10 10 5.1 0.4
[expressed as a decimal fraction] of a storm of a specific 24 10 10 6.0 0.3
1 4 25 3.1 3.1
2 4 25 3.6 1.8
3 4 25 4.0 1.3
6 4 25 5.0 0.8
12 4 25 6.0 0.5
24 4 25 6.9 0.3
1 2 50 3.4 3.4
2 2 50 4.0 2.0
3 2 50 4.4 1.5
6 2 50 5.5 0.9
12 2 50 6.6 0.6
24 2 50 7.6 0.3
1 1 100 3.8 3.8
2 1 100 4.4 2.2
3 1 100 4.9 1.6
6 1 100 6.0 1.0
12 1 100 7.2 0.6
24 1 100 8.4 0.4
6 Maximum probable event 31 5.2
12 Maximum probable event 37 3.1
Figure 3.9. Intensity, duration, and frequency (IDF) curve for Birmingham, 24 Maximum probable event 42 1.8
AL (from National Weather Service, Hydro-35).
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Design 107

difficult to design effective erosion and sediment control maps were prepared by the NRCS (SCS) as part of the runoff
practices that can withstand the high runoff rates than may peak flow rate calculation procedure contained in Technical
occur during many of these “design storm” events. Release 55 (TR-55).
In some states, IDF information is compiled by region and Similar to Pennsylvania’s update, rainfall data collected
is available through one of the state agencies, typically the since the publication of NWS’ Technical Paper 40 and
state Department of Transportation. Pennsylvania is an HYDRO-35, and NOAA’s Atlas 2 and Atlas 14, and the
example of one such state. Pennsylvania is divided into five development of improved statistical methods, motivated
regions based on the region’s characteristic patterns. several states to initiate update studies of precipitation
Pennsylvania design rain information also includes a figure distributions (Durrans and Brown 2001).
showing rainfall depth based on storm duration and return The study by Durrans and Brown (2001) is an interesting
period (Figure 3.10). The current Pennsylvania manual one to highlight for three reasons. One, it uses a substantially
(Field Manual of the Pennsylvania Department of longer period of record to perform the statistical calculations.
Transportation 1986) has been updated and has replaced the Second, it was based on extreme-event probability
older information originally obtained from TP-40 with calculations. Third, the results are widely disseminated on
newer calculated design curves. These regional rainfall the Internet and information for several smaller cities is
design curves in this Pennsylvania field manual were available, based on their historical rainfall record. Since
developed from frequency analyses based on hourly records much of the interest in precipitation records has come from
from 153 climatological stations and 15-minute records from state Departments of Transportation as part of their need to
45 stations in Pennsylvania. The analysis leading to the calculate runoff peak flow rates for design purposes, it is
design curves is fully described in the project report logical that this study was funded by the Alabama
“Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Rainfall Department of Transportation.
Intensity-Duration-Charts,” submitted to the Pennsylvania The Alabama Rainfall Atlas is available at:
Department of Transportation. This web site, prepared by
Appendix 3B contains rainfall distribution maps for the Dr. Rocky Durrans of the University of Alabama for the
whole country from the NRCS TR-55 manual (SCS 1986). In Alabama Dept. of Transportation, calculates and presents
these maps, the return period of the storm is given and the IDF curves for any location in the state of Alabama. IDF
rainfall duration is set at 24-hours. The approximate rainfall equation coefficients were calculated based on long term rain
depth is read from the map based on the site location. These records for many state locations. This web site then

Figure 3.10. Rainfall zones for the State of Pennsylvania (Field Manual of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 1986).

interpolates the coefficients for any location on the state map

and presents graphical and tabular IDF information. The IDF
information is presented for 2 to 500 year rains and for 5
minutes to 48 hours durations. The web site will also produce
SCS design hyetographs. Figure 3.12 is the main map that is
displayed for the Atlas. The user simply clicks the mouse
anywhere an IDF calculation is desired, and selects if a map
or table (or both) is desired. In most cases, the “partial
duration” option is probably desired in order to be more
consistent with historical NOAA IDF curves (not a
significant difference for the large, rare, rains, but more of an
effect on the smaller events). These IDF curves are likely to
vary from the “official” older NOAA IDF curves as they are
obtained from more recent data (the Alabama Rainfall Atlas
values seem to be slightly smaller than the NOAA values).
The bottom button is then clicked to accept the choices and
the desired outputs are produced. Figure 3.13 is an example
for Mobile, AL, showing both an IDF graph and a table. This Figure 3.12. Opening map for the Alabama Rainfall Atlas.
is a preliminary product and the “print” options indicated are
not yet functioning. However, it is possible to use a simple
print screen utility to capture the calculated IDF information. cumulative rain distributions in Figure 3.14 shows how the
Figures 3.14 and 3.15 refer to the SCS rain distribution rain intensities vary throughout these hypothetical events.
types that are commonly used in urban drainage design. The The slope of this curve, averaged over the time of
concentration (described later) and multiplied by the rainfall
depth, equals the rain intensity that would be plotted on an
IDF curve for each hypothetical distribution. Figure 3.15
shows which of these rain types are applicable for different
southeastern U.S. areas. Most of the U.S. uses Type II rains,
but the gulf coast and eastern seaboard use Type III rains.
Types I and IA are used in some parts of the western states.
Appendix 3B includes a map showing the rainfall
distribution types for the entire U.S.

Figure 3.11. IDF Curves for Pennsylvania Region 4 (Field Manual of the Figure 3.13. IDF information produced by the Alabama Rainfall Atlas for
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation 1986). Mobile, AL.
Local Rainfall Conditions Relevant to Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control Design 109

Ê 1ˆ
P = 1 - Á1 - ˜
Ë n¯

This equation can be reworked to relate the service life to

the needed design return period and probability of
exceedence (or failure).
design life
Ê 1 ˆ
P = 1 - Á1 - ˜
Ë T needed ¯
design life
Ê 1 ˆ
1 = P - Á1 - ˜
Ë T needed ¯

(1 - P) (1/ design life) = 1 -
Figure 3.14. Cumulative distribution curves for different SCS rain types T needed
(SCS 1986).
(1 - P) (1/ design life) - 1 = -
T needed
Selection of Design Storms for Varying Risks and
Project Durations 1
1 - (1 - P) (1/ design life) =
T needed
The selection of appropriate control practices must
consider potentially high runoff flow rates corresponding to 1
relatively large rains. As an example, the use of filter fences T needed =
1 - [(1 - P) (1/ design life) ]
is not recommended in channels that drain large areas. Filter
fences are most suitable for controlling sheet flows Figure 3.16 is a plot illustrating this relationship, but
originating from relatively small areas. More robust modified to show the probability of an event not being
sediment control practices, such as wet detention ponds, are exceeded during the design period.
needed for treating runoff from large areas. Similarly, the use
of unreinforced mulches can only be used on flat slopes with
small contributing areas. The following paragraphs describe
how to select an appropriate “design storm” based on
acceptable failure rates and exposure periods.
The following equation (from McGhee, 1991) can be used
to calculate the probability that a rain having a return period
of “n” years, will occur at least once in the next “y” years:

Figure 3.16. Probability, expressed as a percent, of a design storm (design

Figure 3.15. SCS rain distribution types for southeastern U.S. (NRCS, return period) not being exceeded during the project life (design period)
2002b). (from McGhee, 1991, with permission).

TABLE 3.7.Design Storm Return Periods Associated METHODS OF DETERMINING RUNOFF

with Different Probability Levels for a 1-year
Construction Period. Many different methods of computing runoff have been
developed. Some of the methods and limitations of each are
Probability of Storm Not Being Design Storm Return
summarized on Table 3.8 and in the paragraphs below (from
Exceeded in a One Year (Td on Period
Figure 3.16) Construction Period (T on Figure 3.16) (yr) Illinois 1989).
50% 2
75% 6.5 (1) The Rational Method
90% 10
95% 20
The Rational Method is an empirical formula used for
computing peak rates of runoff that has been used in urban
areas for over 100 years (Q = CiA). It is useful for estimating
As an example, one needs to be certain, with a 90% runoff on relatively small areas such as roof tops, parking
probability that a failure would not occur during a 5-year lots, or other homogeneous areas. Use of the Rational
project period (the exposure period, or Td). A storm having a equation should be limited to drainage areas less than 20
50 year return period (T) would be the appropriate design acres that do not vary in surface character and do not have
storm frequency for this condition. branched drainage systems. The most serious drawback of
Obviously, if failure could possibly lead to serious the Rational Method is that it gives only the peak discharge
property damage or loss of life, then the probability of an and provides no information on the time distribution of the
event that may cause such failure not occurring during the storm runoff, disallowing routing of hydrographs through
project design life will need to be very large. Similarly, if the drainage system or storage structures. Newer methods
only minor inconvenience will be associated with a failure, that would allow runoff hydrographs to be developed based
then the probability of that event not occurring during the on a modified Rational Method have been proposed, but are
design period can be much less. Table 3.7 illustrates several not in wide public use. Furthermore, the choice of “C” and
examples for a typical construction period of one year. The “Tc” when choosing “i” in the rational method is more an art
design storms could therefore vary greatly for different of judgment than a precise account of the antecedent
elements on the same project site. A filter fence failure may moisture condition. It also is not an aerial distribution of
not be very serious if the site runoff is also being captured by rainfall intensity. Many errors have been reported in the use
a downstream sediment pond. However, the failure of the of the Rational Method, and it cannot be easily verified.
pond could cause much greater problems. Similarly, the Modifications of the rational method have similar
slope along a filled embankment near a building foundation limitations. The rational method may be applicable in small,
could cause structural failure if massive erosion occurred on isolated sections of construction sites. The rational method
the slope. In these cases and for a one year construction will be used later in this chapter, and in the next chapter, for
period, the filter fence may be designed using a 2-year design predicting sheetflow runoff depth needed for shear stress
storm (acceptable failure probability of 50% in the one year calculations for isolated slopes.
period), the pond may require a 10-year design storm
(acceptable failure probability of 10% in the one year (2) SCS TR-20 Method
period), while the slope near the building may need a
20+-year design storm (acceptable failure probability of The SCS-TR-20 computer program uses hydrologic soil
<5% in the one year period). and cover runoff curve numbers to determine runoff

TABLE 3.8. Selection Criteria for Runoff Calculation Methods (Illinois 1988).
SCS SCS TR-55 COE HEC-1 Method
SCS TR-55 Graphical Peak (now replaced with
Rational TR-20 Tabular Discharge the HEC-HMS
Output Requirements Drainage Area Method Method Method Method method)
Up to 20 acres X X X X
Up to 2,000 acres X X X X
Peak Discharge Only
Up to 5 square miles X X X
Up to 20 square miles X X X
Up to 2,000 acres X X X X
Peak Discharge and Total Runoff Volume Up to 5 square miles X X X
Up to 20 square miles X X X
Up to 5 square miles X X X
Runoff Hydrograph
Up to 20 square miles X X X
Watershed Delineation 111

volumes, and it uses synthetic unit hydrographs to determine calibrated to gauge records. Like TR-20, it can be used on
peak rates of discharge and combined hydrographs. Factors both simple and complex watersheds. Several years ago, the
needed to use the method are the 24-hour rainfall amount, a older HEC-1 was superseded by the HEC-HMS (Hydrologic
given rainfall distribution, runoff curve numbers, time of Modeling System) that is a Windows-based program and
concentration, travel time, and drainage area. This procedure much easier to use. Because of its complexity, it is not a very
probably should not be used for drainage areas less than 50 suitable tool for use at most construction sites. However, if
acres or more than 20 square miles. It is very useful for larger complex conditions exist, like at some highway sites where
drainage basins, especially when there are a series of relatively large streams are crossed by the construction
structures or several tributaries to be studied. Recently, a activities, its use may be warranted.
preliminary Windows version of TR-20 has become
available, making the method easier to use. WATERSHED DELINEATION

(3) SCS TR-55 Tabular Hydrograph Method One of the first steps in conducting a hydrologic
evaluation of an area is to delineate the watershed draining to
The SCS TR-55 Tabular hydrograph is an approximation the location of concern. For construction sites, this may
of the more detailed SCS TR-20 method. The Tabular include determining the area draining to a sediment pond, the
Method divides the watershed into subareas, computes an area draining to a filter fence, the area draining to a diversion
outflow hydrograph for each, and then combines and routes channel, etc. The following discussion outlines a general
each subarea hydrograph to the outlet. It is especially useful approach in determining the watershed boundaries.
for measuring the effects of changing land use in a part of a
watershed. It can also be used to determine the effects of Topographic Map Data Sources
hydraulic structures and combinations of structures,
including channel modifications, at different locations in a The fundamental source of data for delineating and
watershed. The Tabular Method should not be used when studying watersheds is the U.S. Geological Survey
large changes in the curve number occur among subareas Quadrangle map. Each “Quad Sheet” map covers 7.5
within a watershed and when runoff volumes are less than minutes of longitude and latitude. These maps give a wealth
about 1.5 inches for curve numbers less than 60. For most of information including topographic contour lines,
watershed conditions, however, this procedure is adequate to locations of cities, buildings, roads, road types, railroads,
determine the effects of urbanization on peak rates of pipelines, water bodies, forested land, stream networks, and
discharge for subareas up to approximately 20 square miles USGS stream gauging stations and benchmarks. The quad
in size. The recent preliminary Windows version of TR-55 sheets typically have a scale of 1:24,000 (i.e., 1 inch on the
has many improvements and is much easier to use than the map = 24,000 inches on the land). Depending on the age of
older manual method or the original computer version. It is the map, elevation data may be in U.S. Customary or Metric
applicable for many conditions at construction sites and will units. Typically, in the Midwest, the contour intervals of the
be described later in this chapter. elevation data are 5 feet or 1.5 meter. In the south, the
contour intervals may be 20 ft. For watershed delineation,
(4) SCS TR-55 Graphical Method quad sheets offer an important starting point. However, for
detailed investigations, especially for small areas, more
The SCS TR-55 Graphical Method calculates peak detailed site maps having 1 to 5 ft contour intervals are
discharge using an assumed unit hydrograph and an usually required for final analyses. Many of the quad sheets
evaluation of the soils, slope, and surface cover are available on the Internet, although at relatively low
characteristics of the watershed. The assumed unit resolution and for small areas at a time. Internet aerial
hydrograph is based on design considerations rather than photographic sources are also valuable to understand cover
meteorological factors. Correction factors for swampy or and development conditions. Some of these available aerial
ponding conditions can be used. This method is a component photographic sources are quite dramatic, with increasing
of the older TR-55 procedures and is not included in the new resolution and coverage being constantly added. Detailed
Windows version of TR-55. It is not a very suitable tool, as it site maps are usually produced by the site developer. These
has most of the same limitations as the rational method may be available to others from the regulatory reviewing
(specifically no hydrograph routing capabilities). agency.

(5) U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Steps in Determining the Watershed Boundaries
The following is a brief outline of the steps that can be
The COE-HEC 1 provides similar site evaluations as the followed to determine the watershed boundaries of a
SCS TR-20. It is a rainfall-runoff model that can be drainage area affecting a specific location.

1. Trace out the main drainage pathways upstream from the point of concern. It is suggested that a medium point marker trace
the blue line on the quad sheet upstream from the point of concern, as in the following map:
Watershed Delineation 113

2. Using a different color, trace the drainage pathways marked on the quad sheet draining away from the area, as shown on the
following map:

3. Extend the drainage way highlights along obvious drainage pathways, such as gullies/ravines. Also, locate the peaks along
the ridges between these drainage systems with a large dot in the center of enclosed contours:
Watershed Delineation 115

4. Starting at the bottom of the area at the location of interest, connect the peaks between the drainage systems along the ridges
to delineate the watershed boundary. Make sure the watershed boundary line only crosses the topographic lines at 90 degree

5. Make modifications to the watershed boundary to TR-55 (SCS 1986) contains a more through description of
consider anthropogenic modifications to the landscape. the basic processes included in the model. A later discussion
A site survey should identify locations that are different presents a description and example of the Windows version
than described on the (usually outdated) quad sheet. In of the program.
the above example, the site has been extensively strip Only the following site characteristics are needed to use
mined. This example also has roads that are near the TR-55: drainage area, curve number (CN), and time of
ridges that serve as watershed boundaries. Roads are concentration (Tc). With this information, it is possible to
notorious in affecting the local drainage patterns. develop a hydrograph for a specific design storm. In a
Roadside ditches commonly collect water from the complex drainage area, the watershed should be subdivided
watershed of interest, but divert it alongside the road and into relatively-homogeneous subwatersheds for routing the
then let it drain into an adjacent watershed. Also, culverts flows through the system. The following paragraphs
may collect water from parts of an adjacent drainage area describe the elements of TR-55 that are of most interest for
and discharge the water into the watershed of interest. use on construction sites, and present examples for its use.
Finally, buildings may be constructed on the watershed
divide itself (fairly common in small urban drainage Selection of the Curve Number
areas). Roof drains, graded paved parking lots, and other
disturbances can frequently divert small fractions of The first part of using TR-55 is to select the curve number.
adjacent watersheds back and forth. In these areas, it is The curve number is simply the single parameter that relates
best to carefully examine the expected watershed runoff to rainfall. This is illustrated in Figure 3.17. The
boundary and account for these modifications, following equation shows how the CN is used to calculate the
depending on the needed accuracy of the area runoff depth, Q (in inches), from the precipitation depth, P
calculations. (in inches), and the curve number, CN (dimensionless):
È Ê1000 ˆ˘
ÍP - 0.2ÁË CN - 10˜¯ ˙
Q= Î ˚
EVALUATIONS P + 0.8Á - 10˜
Ë CN ¯

General Description of TR-55 for Small Tables 3.9 and 3.10 are used to select the most appropriate
Watersheds curve numbers for an area. For construction sites, Table 3.6
shows that newly graded areas have curve numbers ranging
The complete User Guide for TR-55 (1986 version) can be from 77 for A type soils to 94 for D type soils. These are
downloaded from: relatively high compared to typical pre-development
conditions (woods ranging from 30 to 77), reflecting the increase in runoff volume during the period of construction
tr55.html and the associated increased runoff rate.

According to the NRCS (2002), Technical Release 55

(TR-55) Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds was first
issued in January 1975 as a simplified procedure to calculate
the storm runoff volume, peak rate of discharge,
hydrographs and storage volumes required for storm water
management structures (SCS, 1975). This initial version
involved manual methods and assumed the Type II rainfall
distribution for all calculations. In June 1986, major
revisions were made in TR-55 by adding three additional
rainfall distributions (Type I, IA and III) and developing a
DOS-based computer program. Time of concentration was
estimated by splitting the hydraulic flow path into separate
flow phases (SCS, 1986). This 1986 version is the last
non-computerized version and has been widely used for
drainage design in urban areas.
Even though the manual version of TR-55 is currently
being phased out, its use may still be of interest when Figure 3.17. Basic SCS rainfall-runoff relationship for different CN values
examining construction sites. In addition, the User Guide for (SCS 1986).
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 117

TABLE 3.9. Typical Curve Number Values for Urban Areas (SCS 1986)1.
Hydrologic Soil Group
Land Use Description/Treatment Hydrologic Condition A B C D
Average lot size: Average Percent Imperviousness3
1/8 acre or less 65 77 85 90 92
1/4 acre 38 61 75 83 87
1/3 acre 30 57 72 81 86
1/2 acre 25 54 70 80 85
1 acre 20 51 68 79 84
Paved parking lots, roofs, driveways, etc.4 98 98 98 98
Streets and roads
Paved with curbs and storm sewers3 98 98 98 98
Gravel 76 85 89 91
Dirt 72 82 87 89
Commercial and business areas (85 percent imperviousness) 89 92 94 95
Industrial districts (72 percent imperviousness) 81 88 91 93
Open spaces, lawns, parks, golf courses, cemeteries, etc.
Good condition: grass cover on 75 percent or more of the area 39 61 74 80
Fair condition: grass cover on 50 to 75 percent of the area 49 69 79 84
Poor condition: grass cover on less than 50 percent 68 79 86 89
Western Desert Urban Areas
Natural desert landscaping (pervious areas only)5 63 77 85 88
Artificial desert landscaping (impervious weed barrier, desert shrub with 1- to 2-inch 96 96 96 96
sand or gravel mulch and basin borders)
Developing Urban Areas
Newly developing areas (pervious areas only, no vegetation) 77 86 91 94
1Average runoff condition, and Ia = 0.2S.
2Curve numbers are computed assuming the runoff from the house and driveway is directed toward the street with a minimum of roof water directed to lawns where additional

infiltration could occur. Impervious areas have a CN of 98 and pervious space considered equivalent to open space in good hydrologic condition.
3The remaining pervious areas (lawn) are considered to be in good pasture condition for these curve numbers.
4In some warmer climates of the country, a curve number of 95 may be used.
5Composite curve numbers for natural desert landscaping should be computed using the following figures based on the impervious area percentage and the pervious area CN. The

pervious area CNs are assumed equivalent to desert shrub in poor hydrologic condition.
6Composite CNs to use for the design of temporary measures during grading and construction should be computed using the following figures based on the degree of development

(impervious area percentage) and the CNs for the newly graded pervious areas.

TABLE 3.10. Typical Curve Number Values for Non-Urban Areas (SCS 1986)1.
Curve Numbers for Hydrologic Soil Group
Cover Description Condition A B C D
Poor 68 79 86 89
Pasture, grassland, or range—continuous forage for grazing2 Fair 49 69 79 84
Good 39 61 74 80
Meadow—continuous grass, protected from grazing and generally mowed for hay – 30 58 71 78
Poor 48 67 77 83
Brush—brush-weed-grass mixture with brush the major element3 Fair 35 56 70 77
Good 30 48 65 73
Poor 57 73 83 86
Woods-grass combination (orchard or tree farm)5 Fair 43 65 76 82
Good 32 58 72 79
Poor 45 66 77 83
Woods6 Fair 36 60 73 79
Good 34 55 70 77
Farsteads—buildings, lanes, driveways, and surrounding lots – 59 74 82 86
1Average runoff condition, and Ia = 0.2S.
2Poor: < 50% ground cover or heavily grazed with no mulch.
Fair: 50 to 75% ground cover and not heavily grazed.
Good: > 75% ground cover and lightly or only occasionally grazed.
3Poor: <50% ground cover.

Fair: 50 to 75% ground cover.

Good: >75% ground cover.
4Actual curve number is less than 30; use CN = 30 for runoff computations.
5CNs shown were computed for areas with 50% woods and 50% grass (pasture) cover. Other combinations of conditions may be computed from theCNs for woods and pasture.
6Poor: Forest litter, small trees, and brush are destroyed by heavy grazing or regular burning.

Fair: Woods are grazed, but not burned, and some forest litter covers the soil.
Good: Woods are protected from grazing, and litter and brush adequately cover the soil.

Soil Characteristics

The hydrologic soil groups (HSG) shown on the curve

number tables greatly affect the selected curve number for a
specific cover type or landuse type. The following are the
descriptions for the four soil categories, as given by the SCS

Group A soils have low runoff potential and high infiltration rates,
even when thoroughly wetted. They consist chiefly of deep, well to
excessively drained sands or gravels and have a high rate of water
transmission (greater than 0.30 in/hr).

Group B soils have moderate infiltration rates when thoroughly

wetted and consist chiefly of moderately deep to deep, moderately
well to well drained soils, with moderately fine to moderately
coarser textures. These soils have a moderate rate of water
transmission (0.15 to 0.30 in/hr).

Group C soils have low infiltration rates when thoroughly wetted

and consist chiefly of soils with a layer that impedes downward
movement of water and soils with moderately fine to fine textures.
These soils have a low rate of water transmission (0.05 to 0.15

Group D soils have high runoff potential. They have very low
infiltration rates when thoroughly wetted and consist chiefly of
clay soils with a high swelling potential, soils with a permanent
high water table, soils with a claypan or clay layer at or near the
surface, and shallow soils over nearly imperious material. These
soils have a very low rate of water transmission (0 to 0.05 in/hr).

The transmission/percolation rates noted above are the Figure 3.18. Cripple Creek Church, Tuscaloosa County, AL, soil survey.
rates that water moves within the soil and are controlled by
the soil profile. These are not the same as the water
infiltration rates which are the rates that water enters the soil to Cripple Creek and North River, in Tuscaloosa County,
at the soil surface and are therefore controlled by surface AL. The maps are also aerial photographs (usually several
conditions. For undisturbed natural conditions, the soil decades old) that show the presence of woods, agricultural
characteristics are usually obtained from local county soil operations, and land development features, along with
maps that are available from the county USDA offices for all waterways. The large numbers (15 and 22) are the county
areas of the U.S. Consider the following example from a survey/deed record section numbers. For example, these
local county soil survey. Figure 3.18 is a small section of the sections are located in R. 10 W. and T. 18 S. The small
soil survey map for the Cripple Creek Church area, adjacent numbers (21, 23, and 33) refer to the soil types within the

TABLE 3.11. Soil Survey Characteristics for Area near Cripple Creek Church, Tuscaloosa County, AL.
Soil Number Hydrologic Soil Depth to Bedrock Permeability Erosion Tolerable Soil Loss, T Organic
(name) and Depth Group (inches) (in/hr) Factor, k (tons/ac/yr) Matter (%)
21 (Montevallo) D 10–20 2 0.5–2
0–7 0.6–2.0 0.37
7–12 0.6–2.0 0.32
12–20 – –
23 (Nauvoo) 40–60 3 0.5–2
0–17 2.0–6.0 0.28
17–35 0.6–2.0 0.32
35–41 0.6–2.0 0.32
41–60 – –
33 (Smithdale) B >60 5 0.5–2
0–5 2.0–6.0 0.28
5–42 0.6–2.0 0.24
42–72 2.0–6.0 0.28
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 119

TABLE 3.12. Particle-Size Distribution for Smithdale Soil (percent in size category, less than 2 mm).
Clay Silt Sand Cation Exchange Capacity
Sample Number Depth (inches) Horizon (<0.002 mm) (0.002–0.05 mm) (0.05–2.0 mm) (meq/100 mL)
S77AL-125-11-1 0–5 Ap 2.8 29.2 68.0 3.65
S77AL-125-11-2 5–20 B21t 22.2 34.9 42.9 9.02
S77AL-125-11-3 20–42 B22t 20.2 29.1 50.7 5.36
S77AL-125-11-4 42–52 B23t 12.3 26.5 61.2 4.06
S77AL-125-11-5 52–72 B2t 21.2 12.8 66.0 3.52

dark outlines. These are the soils of interest for this area. the soil profile may be considerably altered and the soil
About two soil samples per square mile were obtained and survey data may not be applicable for final surface soil
analyzed by USDA soil scientists in the preparation of these conditions. They recommend that the hydrologic soil group
maps, so they are not absolutely accurate for small areas. be estimated based on the soil texture. They provide the
They were able to extend the likely areas associated with following list to estimate the soil groups, based on texture,
each soil type based on surface features and aerial provided that significant compaction has not occurred:
photographs. As an example, soil 21 (Montevallo) is
generally in the bottom lands along the creeks. Table 3.11
HSG Soil Textures
lists some of the characteristics of these soils pertaining to
A Sand, loamy sand, or sandy loam
erosion and runoff considerations, while Table 3.12 shows B Silt, silt loam or loam
detailed particle-size information for samples obtained at C Sandy clay loam
different depths for Smithdale soil (the only one of these 3 D Clay loam, silty clay loam, sandy clay, silty clay, or clay
with this information complete in the soil survey) and Table
3.13 lists some potential problems that may be encountered if
the site is to be used for building development. Figure 3.19 shows the standard USDA soil triangle with
The information summarized on these tables is only a the hydrologic soil groups marked, based on the above
small fraction of the tremendous amount of information in categories. Soil compaction can have severe effects on the
the soil surveys. Unfortunately, not all of this information runoff potential of soils and needs to be considered. As
can be used for developed areas, or for areas undergoing reported by Pitt, et al. (1999), unpublished double-ring
development. Soils are dramatically altered during infiltration tests conducted by the Wisconsin Department of
construction projects. These changes range from stripping Natural Resources (DNR) in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin,
off the topsoil and compacting the remaining soil, to indicated highly variable infiltration rates for soils that were
removing large amounts of native soils in cut operations, to generally sandy (Natural Resources Conservation Service
bringing in large amounts of new material if fill is needed. (NRCS) A/B hydrologic group soils) and dry. The median
The surface soils exposed to potential erosion and which initial rate was about 75 mm/hr (3 in/hr), but ranged from 0 to
affects the amount of runoff at the site can therefore vary for 640 mm/hr (0 to 25 in/hr). The final rates also had a median
different construction phases. value of about 75 mm/hr (3 in/hr) after at least 2 hr of testing,
Therefore, it is important to determine the native soils on but ranged from 0 to 380 mm/hr (0 to 15 in/hr). Many
the proposed construction site (an overlay of soil types is infiltration rates actually increased with time during these
usually required for most erosion control plans). Widely tests. In about 1/3 of the cases, the infiltration rates remained
varying soil characteristics on the site should be especially very close to zero, even for these sandy soils. Areas that
noted. Descriptions of how the soils (and topography) will be experienced substantial disturbances or traffic (such as
affected and changed are also needed, as is the description of school playing fields), and siltation (such as in some grass
the fill soil, if a fill soil will be used and if the description is swales) had the lowest infiltration rates.
known. The excavations and fills during different This data indicated that a potential problem existed in
construction phases should be described by the depth of terms of estimating the infiltration rate for typical urban
material to be removed, or brought in, and the resulting soils. Therefore, the research team performed more than 150
surface soils. The SCS (1986) notes that due to urbanization, infiltration tests (as a full factorial experimental design that

TABLE 3.13. Building Site Development Limitations.

Soil Shallow Excavations Local Streets and Roads Dwellings with Basements Lawns and Landscaping
21 (Montevallo) Severe (depth to rock, slope) Severe (slope) Severe (depth to rock, slope) Severe (droughty, slope, thin soil layer)
23 (Nauvoo) Slight Moderate (low strength) Slight Slight
33 (Smithdale) Moderate (slope) Moderate (slope) Moderate (slope) Moderate (slope)

Figure 3.21. Three-dimension plots of infiltration rates for clayey soil (Pitt,
Figure 3.19. USDA standard soil triangle, with hydrologic soil groups for et al. 1999).
disturbed soils.

the effects of duration for some of the test conditions. In all

allowed the researchers to investigate the effects of soil type, cases, except for the clay loam, the uncompacted soils
compaction, moisture content and age since development) behaved as predicted and as shown on the USDA soil
on disturbed urban soils. Compaction had dramatic effects triangle, Figure 3.19. Clay loam had a unexpectedly high
on infiltration rates through sandy soils, while compaction water transmission rate for the uncompacted soil. In all cases,
and moisture affected the infiltration rates in clayey soils. except for 100% sand, compaction resulted in significantly
Moisture was not a factor controlling infiltration rates in the reduced water transmission rates, resulting in a different
sandy soils. Figures 3.20 and 3.21 show the impacts of both HSG than if uncompacted. All severely compacted soils,
compaction and moisture on the infiltration rates of sandy except for 100% sands, are in the D category. Sands remain
and clayey soils, respectively. in the A category for all compaction conditions. During the
Table 3.14 shows the results of controlled laboratory tests tests, the transmission rates for sands dropped significantly,
measuring the water transmission rates for different soil but still remained in the HSG A category.
mixtures with varying levels of compaction. Also shown are
Time of Concentration (Tc or tc) Calculations

The time of concentration needs to be determined for each

subwatershed in the study area. It is usually necessary to
investigate several candidate flow paths in order to be
relatively certain of the one that takes the longest time to
reach the end of the subwatershed area. There are many
different time-of-concentration formulas typically presented
in hydrology textbooks, usually for different conditions and
locations. The SCS/NRCS method has become relatively
common recently. It is necessary to use this method when
using TR-55 (and TR-20). This method separates the flow
path into three segments: sheetflow, shallow concentrated
flow, and channel flow. The time of concentration is equal to
the sum of travel times in each of these flow segments for the
critical flow path. In some cases, especially for small sites,
only sheetflow and possibly shallow concentrated flow may
be evident. Sheetflow is usually limited to less than 150 ft.
The candidate flow paths are drawn on a site topographic
Figure 3.20. Three-dimension plots of infiltration rates for sandy soil (Pitt, map, originate on the subwatershed boundary, and proceed
et al. 1999). all the way to the bottom of the subwatershed. (Note: In rare
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 121

TABLE 3.14. Laboratory Water Transmission Tests for Various Soil Textures and Densities
(densities and observed infiltration rates for different durations) (Pitt, et al. 2002).
Hand Compaction Standard Compaction Modified Compaction
Sand (100% sand) Density: 1.36 g/cc Density: 1.71 g/cc Density: 1.70 g/cc
(ideal for roots) (may affect roots) (may affect roots)
0 to 1.6 hrs: A 0 to 2.7 hrs: A 0 to 2.7 hrs: A
Silt (100% silt) Density: 1.36 g/cc Density: 1.52 g/cc Density: 1.75 g/cc
(close to ideal for roots) (may affect roots) (will likely restrict roots)
0 to 35 hrs: B 0 to 48 hrs: D 0 to 48 hrs: D
Clay (100% clay) Density: 1.45 g/cc Density: 1.62 g/cc Density: 1.88 g/cc
(may affect roots) (will likely restrict roots) (will likely restrict roots)
0 to 48 hrs: D 0 to 100 hrs: D 0 to 100 hrs: D
Sandy Loam (70% sand, 20% silt, 10% clay) Density: 1.44 g/cc Density: 1.88 g/cc Density: 2.04 g/cc
(close to ideal for roots) (will likely restrict roots) (will likely restrict roots)
0 to 7.5 hrs: A 0 to 3.82 hrs: A 0 to 175 hrs: D
3.82 to 24.32 hrs: B
Silty Loam (70% silt, 20% sand, 10% clay) Density: 1.40 g/cc Density: 1.64 g/cc Density: 1.98 g/cc
(may affect roots) (will likely restrict roots) (will likely restrict roots)
0 to 7.22 hrs: B 0 to 144 hrs: D 0 to 144 hrs: D
7.22 to 47 hrs: C
Clay Loam (40% silt, 30% sand, 30% clay) Density: 1.48 g/cc Density: 1.66 g/cc Density: 1.95 g/cc
(may affect roots) (will likely restrict roots) (will likely restrict roots)
0 to 6.1 hrs: A 0 to 93 hrs: D 0 to 93 hrs: D

circumstances, it is possible for the Tc flow path to originate where,

at an internal elevated location and not along the
Tt = travel time (hr)
subwatershed boundary. This should be investigated for all
n = Manning roughness coefficient (for sheet flow)
sites to confirm that the Tc pathway does not have an internal
L = flow length (ft) (maximum of 300 ft; WinTR55 only
“starting point”). Sheetflow is usually the first element allows a maximum length of 150 ft)
considered and normally is assumed to last for a maximum of P2 = 2-year, 24-hour rainfall depth (in), and
300 ft (300 ft for very smooth surfaces; usually 50–150 ft for s = slope of hydraulic grade line (land slope, ft/ft)
surfaces with natural ground cover; WinTR-55 currently
limits the sheetflow length to a maximum of 100 ft). The The sheetflow Manning’s n roughness coefficient values
travel time for sheetflow is calculated using a kinematic are different from the channel lining roughness coefficients.
solution to Manning’s equation. Sheetflow ends when it is Table 3.15 lists these sheetflow values. These are all greater
assumed that the depth of flow exceeds 0.1 ft (SCS 1986). than the channel lining n values for the rougher surfaces, due
The flow path is then assumed to occur as shallow to the shallow nature of the flows, which results in friction
concentrated flow, until a designated channel on the affecting more of the flow depth. As an example, a common
topographic map is reached (usually taken as a designated channel-lining n value for grass is 0.024, while the sheetflow
creek or stream on a USGS quadrangle map). When several n value for grass is 0.24, or 10 times higher. The grass has a
candidate flow paths are evaluated, the one with the longest much greater effect on flow when the flow is shallow than
travel time is assumed to represent the time of concentration when the flow is deep. However, the smooth surface
for the subwatershed. If a rain lasts for at least that time sheetflow n values (0.011) are very similar to the values that
period, the runoff at the outlet will contain water from the would be used for these surfaces in channels. This is because
complete area, resulting in maximum runoff rates. these smooth surfaces have a minimal effect on both shallow
The following discussions show how the travel times are and deeper flows due to their relatively low effective
calcualted for each flow path element. roughness heights. An important factor for construction sites
is the roughness coefficient of 0.011 for bare soils, compared
to cultivated soils (with mulch covers of >20%) of 0.17, and
dense grasses of 0.24. Natural woods can have n coefficients
of 0.4 to 0.8, depending on the height of the underbrush.
The following equation (a kinematic solution to the
Figure 3.22 includes graphs that can be used to estimate the
Manning’s equation) is used in the SCS procedures to
travel time for different sheetflow conditions, calculated
calculate the travel time along the sheetflow path segment:
using the above SCS sheetflow formula, using a P2 value of
4.2 inches (appropriate for Birmingham, AL). If the P2 ratio
0.007(nL) 0. 8
Tt = is not 4.2 inches, the Figure 3.22 values can be adjusted using
(P2 ) 0. 5 S 0. 4 the above sheetflow equation and the following factors:

Actual P2 Multiplier for Sheetflow Travel

Value (inches) Times (if P2 is not 4.2 inches) TABLE 3.15. Sheetflow Manning’s Equation Roughness
1.0 2.0
Coefficients (SCS, 1986).
1.5 1.7
2.0 1.4
Surface Description Roughness Factor, n
2.5 1.3
3.0 1.2 Smooth surfaces (concrete, asphalt, 0.011
3.5 1.1 gravel, or bare soil)
4.0 1.0 Fallow (no residue) 0.05
4.5 1.0 Cultivated soils:
5.0 0.9 Residue cover ≤20% 0.06
5.5 0.9 Residue cover >20% 0.17
6.0 0.8
Short grass prairie 0.15
Dense grass 0.24
Bermudagrass 0.41
Shallow Concentrated Flow Range (natural) 0.13
After a maximum of 300 ft, sheetflow usually becomes Light underbrush 0.40
Dense underbrush 0.80
shallow concentrated flow which is characterized by much
1Includes species such as weeping lovegrass, bluegrass, buffalo grass, blue gama
narrower flow paths and faster flows. The flow depth also is grass, and native grass mixtures
greater than 0.1 ft, and therefore friction effects of the 2When selecting n for woods, consider cover to a height of about 0.1 ft. This is the

only part of the plant cover that will obstruct sheet flow.
surface cover are not as dramatic. The following equations
are used to calculate the velocities of this flow segment,
based on the nature of the surface (paved or unpaved). Figure These two equations are based on a solution of the
3.13 contains graphical solutions for these equations. Manning equation with different assumptions for n
(Manning roughness coefficient) and R (hydraulic radius, ft).
V = 161
. s (Unpaved) For unpaved areas, n is 0.05 and R is 0.4 ft; for paved areas, n
is 0.025 and R is 0.2 ft. The travel time associated with the
V = 20.3 s (Paved)
shallow-concentrated flow segment is calculated using this
where, velocity and the flow-path length.
V = average velocity (ft/s), and The following empirical formula is given by CA DOT
s = slope of hydraulic grade line (watercourse slope, ft/ft) ( in

Figure 3.22. Sheetflow travel times.

Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 123

Figure 3.22 (continued). Sheetflow travel times.


Figure 3.22 (cotinued). Sheetflow travel times.

Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 125

Channel Flow

If the flow path includes a designated channel shown on a

USGS quadrangle map, the Manning’s equation is used to
calculate the velocity in the channel reach. The travel time in
the reach is then calculated using this channel-full velocity
and the length of the channel.
1.49R 2/ 3 s
V= average velocity (ft/s), and
R= hydraulic radius (ft) and is equal to a/pw
a= cross sectional flow area (ft2)
pw = wetted perimeter (ft)
s= slope of hydraulic grade line (channel slope, ft/ft)
n= Manning roughness coefficient (for open channel
This is the conventional Manning’s equation, and
appropriate channel lining n coefficients are used. The depth
of water in the channel is assumed to be equal to the depth at
bankfull conditions, assumed by TR-55 to be the 2-year
storm (to be consistent with the sheetflow calculations)
(SCS, 1986).
The hydraulic radius (R) in the equation is the ratio of the
cross-sectional flow area to the wetted perimeter length (the
wet edge of the channel). For a fully-flowing circular pipe,
this is equal to the diameter divided by 4, while for
sheetflows (where the depth is less than about 10 times the
flowwidth) the hydraulic radius is close to the depth of flow.
The Manning’s roughness coefficients, n, for channel
conditions where deep flow is typical, are substantially
Figure 3.23. Shallow concentrated flow velocities (SCS 1986). different than for the previously presented values for
sheetflow. Table 3.16 is a set of typical Manning’s n values
their Hydrology Design Manual, Chapter 810, as an for different channel (and conduit) conditions (Chow, 1959):
alternative to estimate the flow velocity (in m/sec): Table 3.16 presents reasonable values for simple channels
that are likely to be constructed at construction sites,
V = kS1/2 including downslope pipe diversions. The USGS (Arcement
and Schneider, 1984) presents the following summary for
Where S is the slope in percent and k (m/s) is an intercept determining Manning n values for the natural channels that
coefficient depending on land surface cover as shown below: may also be present on construction sites:
The most important factors that affect the selection of
Forest with heavy ground litter; hay meadow (overland channel n values are the type and size of the materials that
flow): 0.076 compose the bed and banks of the channel, and shape of the
Trash fallow or minimum tillage cultivation; contour or strip channel. Cowan (1956) developed a procedure for
cropped; woodland (overland flow): 0.152 estimating the effects of these factors to determine the value
Short grass pasture (overland flow): 0.213 of n for a channel. The value of n may be computed by
Cultivated straight row (overland flow): 0.274 n = (nb + n1 + n2 + n3 + n4)m
Nearly bare and untilled (overland flow); alluvial fans: 0.305 where,
Grassed waterway (shallow concentrated flow): 0.457 nb = a base value of n for a straight, uniform, smooth
Unpaved (shallow concentrated flow): 0.491 channel in natural materials
Paved area (shallow concentrated flow); small upland n1 = a correction factor for the effect of surface
gullies: 0.619 irregularities

n2 = a value for variations in shape and size of the channel TABLE 3.17. Base n values for channels.
cross section
Base n value
n3 = a value for obstructions Median Size of
n4 = a value for vegetation and flow conditions Bed Material Straight Uniform Smooth
Bed Material (mm) Channel1 Channel2
m = a correction factor for meandering of the channel
The following discussion on the basic n values and Channels 2.00 to 2.50 2.51 to 3.00 Total
modifications for channels is summarized from Arcement Sand3 0.2 0.012 –
and Schneider (1984). 0.3 0.017 –
0.4 0.020 –
0.5 0.022 –
Base n Values (nb ) for Channels 0.6 0.023 –
0.8 0.025 –
In the selection of a base n value for channel subsections, 1.0 0.026 –
the channel must be classified as either a stable channel or as Stable Channels and Flood Plains
a sand channel. A stable channel is defined as a channel in Concrete – 0.012.018 0.011
which the bed is composed of firm soil, gravel, cobbles, Rock Cut – – 0.025
boulders, or bedrock and the channel remains relatively Firm Soil – 0.025–0.032 0.020
Coarse Sand 1–2 0.026–0.035 –
unchanged throughout most of the range in flow. The
Fine Gravel – – 0.024
following table is modified from Aldridge and Garrett, 1973) Gravel 2–64 0.028–0.035 –
and lists base nb values for stable channels and sand Coarse Gravel – – 0.026
channels. The base values of Benson and Dalrymple (1967) Cobble 64–256 0.030–0.050 –
Boulder >256 0.040–0.070 –
in Table 3.17 apply to conditions that are close to average,
while Chow’s (1959) base values are for the smoothest reach Modified from Aldridge and Garret, 1973.
–No data
attainable for a given bed material. 1Benson and Dalrymple .
2For indicated material (Chow 1959).
3Only for upper regime flow where grain roughness is predominant.

TABLE 3.16. Manning’s n Values for Different Channel

Conditions (Chow, 1959). Barnes (1967) cataloged verified n values for stable
channels having roughness coefficients ranging from 0.024
Type of Channel and Description of Closed
Conduits Minimum
to 0.075. In addition to a description of the cross section, bed
material, and flow conditions during the measurement, color
Concrete Pipe:
Culverts with bends, connections & debris 0.013 photographs of the channels were provided.
Storm sewer 0.013 A sand channel is defined as a channel in which the bed
Subdrain with open joints 0.016 has an unlimited supply of sand. By definition, sand ranges
PVC Pipe 0.011 in grain size from 0.062 mm (62 µm) to 2 mm. Resistance to
Concrete Surfaces (bottom & sides):
Smooth finish 0.015 flow varies greatly in sand channels because the bed material
Unfinished 0.017 moves easily and takes on different configurations or bed
Concrete Bottom (with sides made of): forms. Bed form is a function of velocity of flow, grain size,
Mortared stone 0.020 bed shear, and temperature.
Dry rubble or riprap 0.030
Gravel Bottom (with sides made of):
The flows that produce the bed forms are classified as
Formed concrete 0.020 lower regime flow and upper regime flow, according to the
Dry rubble or riprap 0.040 relation between depth and discharge. The lower regime
Excavated or Dredged Channels and Ditches: flow occurs during low discharges, and the upper regime
Earthen, straight & uniform, no brush or debris:
Grassed, less than 6″ high with:
flow occurs during high discharges. An unstable
Depth of flow 2.0 ft 0.035 discontinuity, called a transitional zone, appears between the
Depth of flow 2.0 ft 0.030 two regimes in the depth to discharge relationship. In lower
Grassed, approximately 12″ high with: regime flow, the bed may have a plane surface and no
Depth of flow 2.0 ft 0.060
Depth of flow 2.0 ft: 0.035
movement of sediment, or the bed may be deformed and
Grassed, approximately 24ö high with: have small uniform waves or large irregular saw-toothed
Depth of flow 2.0 ft 0.070 waves formed by sediment moving downstream. The
Depth of flow 2.0 ft 0.035 smaller waves are known as ripples, and the larger waves
Earth bottom with riprap on sides 0.040
Rock or shale cuts:
are known as dunes. In upper regime flow, the bed may
Smooth and uniform 0.035 have a plane surface and sediment movement or long,
Jagged and irregular 0.040 smooth sand waves that are in phase with the surface
Curb and Gutter (Concrete) 0.016 waves.
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 127

TABLE 3.18. Adjustment Values for Factors that Affect the Roughness of a Channel
[modified from Aldridge and Garrett, 1973].
Channel Conditions n Value Adjustment Example
Smooth 0.000 Compares to the smoothest channel attainable in a given bed material.
Minor 0.001–0.005 Compares to slightly degraded channels in good condition but having slightly eroded or
scoured side slopes.
Moderate 0.006–0.010 Compares to dredged channels having moderate to considerable bed roughness and
moderately sloughed or eroded side slopes.
Severe 0.011–0.020 Badly sloughed or scalloped banks of natural streams; badly eroded or sloughed sides of
canals or drainage channels; unshaped, jagged, and irregular surfaces of channels in rocks.

Irregularity (n1 ) pilings, and bridge piers, disturb the flow pattern in the
channel and increase roughness. The amount of increase
Where the ratio of width to depth is small, roughness depends on the following: the shape of the obstruction; the
caused by eroded and scalloped banks, projecting points, and size of the obstruction in relation to that of the cross section;
exposed tree roots along the banks must be accounted for by and the number, arrangement, and spacing of obstructions.
fairly large adjustments, Table 3.18, Chow (1959) and The effect of obstructions on the roughness coefficient is a
Benson and Dalrymple (1967) showed that severely eroded function of the flow velocity. When the flow velocity is high,
and scalloped banks can increase n values by as much as an obstruction exerts a sphere of influence that is much larger
0.02. Larger adjustments may be required for very large, than the obstruction because the obstruction affects the flow
irregular banks that have projecting points. pattern for considerable distances on each side. The sphere of
influence for velocities that generally occur in channels that
Variation in Channel Cross Section (n2 ) have gentle to moderately steep slopes is about three to five
times the width of the obstruction. Several obstructions can
The value of n is not affected significantly by relatively create overlapping spheres of influence and may cause
large changes in the shape and size of cross sections if the considerable disturbance, even though the obstructions may
changes are gradual and uniform. Greater roughness is occupy only a small part of a channel cross section. Chow
associated with alternating large and small cross sections and (1959) assigned adjustment values to four levels of
sharp bends, constrictions, and side-to-side shifting of the obstruction: negligible, minor, appreciable, and severe
low-water channel. The degree of the effect of changes in the (Table 3.20).
size of the channel depends primarily on the number of
alternations of large and small sections and secondarily on Vegetation (n4 )
the magnitude of the changes. The effects of abrupt changes
may extend downstream for several hundred meters. The n The extent to which vegetation affects n depends on the
value for a reach below a disturbance may require following: the depth of flow; the percentage of the wetted
adjustment, even though none of the roughness-producing perimeter covered by the vegetation; the density of
factors are apparent in the study reach, Table 3.19. A vegetation below the high-water line; the degree to which the
maximum increase in n of 0.003 will result from the usual vegetation is flattened by high water; and the alignment of
amount of channel curvature found in designed channels and vegetation relative to the flow. The adjustment values given
in the reaches of natural channels used to compute discharge in the following table apply to constricted channels that are
(Benson and Dalrymple 1967). narrow in width. In wide channels having small
depth-to-width ratios and no vegetation on the bed, the
Obstructions (n3 ) effect of bank vegetation is small, and the maximum
adjustment is about 0.005. If the channel is relatively
Obstructions, such as logs, stumps, boulders, debris, narrow and has steep banks covered by dense vegetation

TABLE 3.19. n2 Adjustment Factor.

Channel Conditions n Value Adjustment Example
Gradual 0.000 Size and shape of channel cross sections change gradually.
Alternating occasionally 0.001–0.005 Large and small cross sections alternate occasionally, or the main flow occasionally shifts
from side to side owing to changes in cross-sectional shape.
Alternating frequently 0.010–0.015 Large and small cross sections alternate frequently, or the main flow frequently shifts from side
to side owing to changes in cross-sectional shape.

TABLE 3.20. n3 Adjustment Factors.

Channel Conditions n Value Adjustment Example
Negligible 0.000–0.004 A few scattered obstructions, which include debris deposits, stumps, exposed roots,
logs, piers, or isolated boulders, that occupy less than 5 percent of the cross-sectional
Minor 0.005–0.015 Obstructions occupy less than 15 percent of the cross-sectional area, and the spacing
between obstructions is such that the sphere of influence around one obstruction does
not extend to the sphere of influence around another obstruction. Smaller adjustments
are used for curved smooth-surfaced objects than are used for sharp-edged angular
Appreciable 0.020–0.030 Obstructions occupy from 15 percent to 50 percent of the cross-sectional area, or the
space between obstructions is small enough to cause the effects of several obstructions to
be additive, thereby blocking an equivalent part of a cross-section.
Severe 0.040–0.050 Obstructions occupy more than 50 percent of the cross-sectional area, or the space
between obstructions is small enough to cause turbulence across most of the cross

that hangs over the channel, the maximum adjustment is Example (Manning’s n Adjustment):
about 0.03. The larger adjustment values given in Table 3.21 Consider the following:
apply only in places where vegetation covers most of the
Basic n value for channel in earth (straight uniform
channel in firm soil), nb = 0.030; Modification for channel
irregularity (minor), n1 = 0.002; Modification for channel
Meandering (m)
cross section (alternating occasionally), n2 = 0.003;
Modification for obstructions (negligible), n3 = 0.002;
The degree of meandering, m, depends on the ratio of the
Modification for vegetation (small, grass), n4 = 0.005.
total length of the meandering channel in the reach being
considered to the straight length of the channel reach, Table No meander correction
3.22. The meandering is considered minor for ratios of 1.0 to n = nb + n1 + n2 + n3 + n4, n = 0.042
1.2, appreciable for ratios of 1.2 to 1.5, and severe for ratios
of 1.5 and greater. According to Chow (1959), meanders can Chow (1959) would indicate a value between 0.030 and
increase the n values by as much as 30 percent where flow is 0.050 for this channel.
confined within a stream channel. The meander adjustment For most streams, a field survey is needed to determine the
should be considered only when the flow is confined to the appropriate Manning’s roughness and hydraulic radius
channel. There may be very little flow in a meandering values for a site, as it is not possible to estimate these from a
channel when there is flood-plain flow. map.

TABLE 3.21. n4 Vegetation Adjustment Factors.

Channel Conditions n Value Adjustment Example
Small 0.002–0.010 Dense growths of flexible turf grass, such as Bermuda, or weeds growing where the average
depth of flow is at least two times the height of the vegetation; supple tree seedlings such as
willow, cottonwood, arrowhead, or saltcedar growing where the average depth of flow is at
least three times the height of the vegetation.
Medium 0.010–0.025 Turf grass growing where the average depth of flow is from one to two times the height of the
vegetation; moderately dense stemy grass, weeds, or tree seedlings where the average depth
of flow is from two to three times the height of the vegetation; brushy, moderately dense
vegetation, similar to 1-to-2-year-old willow trees in the dormant season, growing along the
banks, and no significant vegetation is evident along the channel bottoms where the hydraulic
radius exceeds 0.61 meters.
Large 0.025–0.050 Turf grass growing where the average depth of flow is about equal to the height of the
vegetation; 8-to-10-year-old willow or cottonwood trees intergrown with some weeds and
brush (none of the vegetation in foliage) where the hydraulic radius exceeds 0.60 m; bushy
willows about 1 year old intergrown with some weeds along side slopes (all vegetation in full
foliage), and no significant vegetation exists along channel bottoms where the hydraulic radius
is greater than 0.61 m.
Very Large 0.050–0.100 Turf grass growing where the average depth of flow is less than half the height of the
vegetation; bushy willow trees about 1 year old intergrown with weeds along side slopes (all
vegetation in full foliage), or dense cattails growing along channel bottom; trees intergrow with
weeds and brush (all vegetation in full foliage).
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 129

TABLE 3.22. Meander Adjustment Multiplier.

Channel Conditions n Value Adjustment Example
Minor 1.00 Ratio of the channel length to valley length is 1.0 to 1.2
Appreciable 1.15 Ratio of the channel length to valley length is 1.2 to 1.5
Severe 1.30 Ratio of the channel length to valley length is greater than 1.5
1Adjustments for degree of irregularity, variation in cross section, effect of obstructions, and vegetation are added to the base n value before multiplying by the adjustment for

2Adjustment values apply to flow confined in channel and do not apply where downvalley flow crosses meanders.

Example (Travel Time Calculation): the watershed, several different candidate flow paths are
usually needed to be evaluated and the one with the longest
The TR-55 User Guide (SCS 1986) includes the following
travel time is used as the time of concentration. This may not
example. Figure 3.24 shows a watershed in Dyer County,
be the path with the longest travel distance, but may be a
which is located in northwestern Tennessee. The problem is
shorter path affected by shallower slopes and rougher covers.
to compute Tc at the outlet of the watershed (point D). The
2-year 24-hour rainfall depth is 3.6 inches. All three types of
Tabular Hydrograph Method
flow occur from the hydraulically most distant point (A) to
the point of interest (D). To compute Tc, first determine Tt for
The SCS TR-55 tabular hydrograph method (SCS, 1986)
each segment from the following information:
can be used to develop a hydrograph for each subwatershed
area that can then be routed through the downstream project
Segment AB: Sheetflow; dense grass; slope (s) = 0.01 ft/ft;
segments. This method will also produce the total runoff
and length (L) = 100 ft.
volume and the peak flow rate. This method is not used in the
Segment BC: Shallow concentrated flow; unpaved; s = 0.01 new WinTR-55; this computerized version uses the more
ft/ft; and L = 1400 ft. complete routing procedures from TR-20. However, the
Segment CD: Channel flow; Manning’s n = 0.05; flow following is still presented as an optional method and to
cross-sectional area (a) = 27 ft2; wetted perimeter (pw) = 28.2 illustrate the sensitivity of Tc and CN selections. Appendix
ft; s = 0.005 ft/ft; and L = 7300ft. 3A includes all of the tabular hydrograph tables that can be
used to calculate hydrographs for all locations in the U.S.
Figure 3.25 is the SCS worksheet showing the calculations
for the above problem. In this case, each flow segment is Example (Tabular Hydrograph Calculation)
comprised of a single condition of slope and cover. In many
cases, the individual flow segments may need to be broken The following example is from the TR-55 manual (SCS
up into subunits to represent different slopes or roughness 1986) and illustrates how the Tc, CN, and other site
coefficients. The travel times for each of the segments are characteristics are used to develop and route hydrographs for
added. For the sheetflow segment, however, the total travel a complex watershed.
length must still be less than 300 ft, not 300 ft for each This example computes the 25-year frequency peak
calculation interval. Worksheet 3 has two columns to discharge at the downstream end of subarea 7 shown in
facilitate two segments for each portion. Additional Figure 3.26. This example is for present conditions and uses
segments may be needed. In this example, the total travel the worksheets presented in SCS (1986). The CN, Tc, and Tt
time for this flow path from A to D is 1.53 hours, with almost for each subarea must be determined or calculated using the
1 hour associated with the channel flow time. For small sites, procedures in TR-55 Chapters 2 and 3. These values are
including most construction sites, the sheetflow segment will entered on worksheet 5a (Figure 3.27). Then, the tabular
likely comprise the largest portion of the total flow time. hydrograph tables are used to determine the normalized
Again, in order to determine the time of concentration for hydrograph for downstream locations.
The hydrograph tables are presented in SCS (1986)
according to rain type (there are sections of tables for types I,
Ia, II, and III rain distributions). The first step is to find the
table section pertaining to the rain distribution for the study
area. In this case, the area has type II rains. The type II rain
hydrograph tables are further grouped according to the Tc for
the subarea, ranging from 0.1 to 2 hours. In the case for
subarea #1, the Tc is 1.5 hours, so pg 5-37 from SCS (1986) is
used (Table 3.24). Each page is further divided into three
segments, corresponding to Ia/P ratios of 0.10, 0.30, and
Figure 3.24. Watershed for TR-55 Tt calculation example (SCS, 1986). 0.50. The Ia is the initial abstractions for the area (not to be

Figure 3.25. Calculation example for travel time problem (SCS, 1986).
Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 131

TABLE 3.23. Ia Values for Runoff Curve Numbers

(SCS, 1986).
Curve Curve Curve
Number Ia (inch) Number Ia (inch) Number Ia (inch)
40 3.000 60 1.333 80 0.500
41 2.878 61 1.279 81 0.469
42 2.762 62 1.226 82 0.439
43 2.651 63 1.175 83 0.410
44 2.545 64 1.125 84 0.381
45 2.444 65 1.077 85 0.353
46 2.348 66 1.030 86 0.326
47 2.255 67 0.985 87 0.299
48 2.167 68 0.941 88 0.273
49 2.082 69 0.899 89 0.247
50 2.000 70 0.857 90 0.222
51 1.922 71 0.817 91 0.198
52 1.846 72 0.778 92 0.174
53 1.774 73 0.740 93 0.151
54 1.704 74 0.703 94 0.128
Figure 3.26. Example watershed for tabular hydrograph calculations (SCS
55 1.636 75 0.667 95 0.105
56 1.571 76 0.632 96 0083
57 1.509 77 0.597 97 0.062
confused with rain distribution type Ia) and are a direct 58 1.448 78 0.564 98 0.041
function of the CN value. These are given in the User Guide 59 1.390 79 0.532
(SCS Table 5-1), and on Table 3.23. The P is the total rain
depth being evaluated. The top set of values are used for Ia/P
ratios of ≤0.2, the middle set for ratios from 0.2 to 0.4, while segment has 12 lines representing different travel times from
the bottom set is used for ratios of >0.4 (interpolation is not the bottom of the subwatershed area to the location of
used; WinTR-55 and TR-20 calculate more precise values interest (typically the outlet). The largest unit peak runoff
based on actual site conditions). In this case, the #1 subarea rate values (csm/in, or cubic feet per second of runoff per
Ia/P is 0.18, so the top set of values are used. Finally, each square mile of drainage area, per inch of direct runoff) on

Figure 3.27. Worksheet 5a for showing basic watershed data (SCS, 1986).

TABLE 3.24. Tabular Hydrograph Table for Example Problem (SCS, 1986, pg 5-37).

TABLE 3.25. Worksheet 5b for Example Hydrograph Calculation (SCS, 1986).

Use of the SCS (NRCS) TR-55 Method for Construction Site Hydrology Evaluations 133

each line are close to 12 hours for the top time, and shift to 3. Calculate the time of concentration (Tc) for each subarea
the right as the travel time increases. The shift between the (TR-55 chapter 3).
largest values for each row is equal to the differences in the
I 0.2 hrs
travel times between each line, representing routing of the II 0.1
hydrographs as they travel downstream. For the #1 subarea, III 0.3
the Tt is 2.5 hours. Therefore, the line near the bottom of the IV 0.1
top segment, representing 2.5 hours, is used. The values in
the table represent normalized hydrographs and are 4. Calculate the travel time (Tt) from each subarea
multiplied by AmQ (the factor of the watershed area, in mi2, discharge location to the location of interest (outlet of
and the direct runoff in inches) to obtain the flow values in total watershed in this example) (TR-55 chapter 3).
traditional units of ft3/sec, or cfs. These final cfs values are
written on worksheet 5b (Table 3.25). As an example, the I 0.1 hrs
appropriate values for the peak discharge (q) for subarea 4 at II 0.05
III 0.06
14.6 hr is: IV 0.0

q = qt(AmQ) = (274)(0.70) = 192 cfs

5. Select the curve number (CN) for each subarea, Tables
Once all the prerouted subarea hydrographs have been 3.9 and 3.10, or local data as in this example.
tabulated on worksheet 5b, they are summed to obtain the I CN = 97
Strip commercial, all directly connected
composite hydrograph. The resulting 25-year frequency II Medium density residential area, grass swales CN = 46
peak discharge is 720 cfs at 14.3 hr, as shown on Table 3.25. III Medium density residential area, curbs and gutters CN = 72
IV Low density residential area, grass swales CN = 40
Example (Tabular Hydrograph for Urban
Watershed) 6. Determine the appropriate rainfall distribution (Type II
for all areas in this example).
The following example is for a typical urban watershed, 7. Find the 24-hour rainfall depth for storm, equal to 4.1
having four subareas that are quite different in their inches for this example.
development characteristics. The following lists the 8. Calculate total runoff (inches) from CN and rain depth
procedure for evaluating this area: (from SCS Figure 2-1), Figure 3.17.
1. Subdivide the watershed into relatively homogeneous
I CN = 97 P = 4.1 in. Q = 3.8 in.
subareas (as shown in Figure 3.28). II CN = 46 P = 4.1 in. Q = 0.25
2. Calculate the drainage for each subarea. III CN = 72 P = 4.1 in. Q = 1.5
IV CN = 40 P = 4.1 in. Q = 0.06

I 0.10 mi2
II 0.08
III 0.6
9. Determine Ia for each subarea (SCS assumes Ia = 0.2 S,
IV 0.32 where S is the total rainfall abstractions) (SCS table 5-1),
Total 1.12 mi2 Table 3.23.

I CN = 97 Ia = 0.062 in.
II CN = 46 Ia = 2.348 in.
III CN = 72 Ia = 0.778 in.
IV CN = 40 Ia = 3.000 in.

10. Calculate the ratio of Ia to P.

I Ia/P = 0.062/4.1 = 0.015

II Ia/P = 2.348/4.1 = 0.57
III Ia/P = 0.778/4.1 = 0.19
IV Ia/P = 3.000/4.1 = 0.73

11. Use worksheets SCS 5a and 5b to summarize above data

and to calculate the composite hydrograph. These are
Figure 3.28. Relatively homogeneous subareas in example urban shown in Tables 3.26 and 3.27.

TABLE 3.26. SCS Worksheet 5a for Urban Example.

TABLE 3.27. SCS Worksheet 5b for Urban Example.

WinTR-55 135

NRCS hydrology and is the technical reference for


Program Description

WinTR-55 is a single-event rainfall-runoff small

watershed hydrologic model. The model generates
hydrographs from both urban and agricultural areas and at
selected points along the stream system. Hydrographs are
routed downstream through channels and/or reservoirs.
Multiple sub-areas can be modeled within the watershed.

Model Overview
Figure 3.29. Plot of individual and composite hydrograph for urban
example. A watershed is composed of subareas (land areas) and
reaches (major flow paths in the watershed). Each subarea
The peak flow is seen to be 910 cfs, occurring at 12.3 has a hydrograph generated from the land area based on the
hours. Figure 3.29 is a plot of the 3 main components, plus land and climate characteristics provided. Reaches can be
the total hydrograph. Subarea III contributed most of the designated as either channel reaches where hydrographs are
peak flow to the total hydrograph, while subareas II and IV routed based on physical reach characteristics or as storage
contributed insignificant flows. The following chapter reaches where hydrographs are routed through a reservoir
section introduces WinTR-55 and presents this same based on temporary storage and outlet characteristics.
example. The main differences is that WinTR-55 requires a Hydrographs from sub-areas and reaches are combined as
description of the channel as it calculates the travel times and needed to accumulate flow as water moves from the upland
conducts the channel routing using a more precise procedure. areas down through the watershed reach network. The
In addition, the hydrograph development uses TR-20, accumulation of all runoff from the watershed is represented
instead of the tabular hydrograph method. at the watershed outlet. Up to ten sub-areas and ten reaches
may be included in the watershed.
WinTR-55 uses the TR-20 (NRCS 2002b) model for all of
WinTR-55 the hydrograph procedures: generation, channel routing,
storage routing, and hydrograph summation. Figure 3.30 is a
The following discussion is summarized from the diagram showing the WinTR-55 model, its relationship to
WinTR-55 user guide information, while the example uses TR-20, and the files associated with the model.
the previously described information.
A WinTR-55 work group was formed in the spring of
1998 to modernize and revise TR-55 and the computer Capabilities and Limitations
software. The current changes included the following:
upgrading the source code to Visual Basic, changing the WinTR-55 hydrology has the capability to analyze
philosophy of data input, developing a Windows interface watersheds that meet the criteria listed in Table 3.28.
and output post-processor, enhancing the hydrograph-
generation capability of the software, and improving the
generated flood-route hydrographs through stream reaches Model Input
and reservoirs.
The availability and technical capabilities of the personal The various data used in the WinTR-55 procedures are
computer have significantly changed the philosophy of user entered via a series of input windows in the model. A
problem-solving for the engineer. Computer availability description of each of the input windows follows the figure.
eliminated the need for TR-55 manual methods, thus the Data entry is needed only on the windows that are applicable
manual portions (graphs and tables) of the user document to the watershed being evaluated.
have been eliminated. The WinTR-55 user manual (NRCS
2002a) covers the procedures used in and the operation of the
WinTR-55 computer program. Part 630 of the Natural Minimum Data Requirements
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National
Engineering Handbook provides detailed information on While WinTR-55 can be used for watersheds with up to

TABLE 3.28. WinTR-55 Capabilities & Limitations ten sub-areas and up to ten reaches, the simplest run involves
(NRCS 2002a). only a single sub-area. Data required for a single sub-area run
Variable Limits
can be entered on the TR-55 Main Window. These data
include: identification data-user, state, county, project, and
Minimum area No absolute minimum is included in
the software. However, carefully subtitle; dimensionless unit hydrograph; storm data; rainfall
examine results from sub-areas less distribution; and subarea data. The subarea data can be
than 1 acre. entered directly into the subarea entry and summary table:
Maximum area 25 square miles (6,500 hectares)
Number of Subwatersheds 1–10 subarea name, subarea description, subarea flows to
Time of concentration for reach/outlet, area, runoff curve number (CN), and time of
any sub-area 0.1 hour ≤ Tc ≤ 10 hour concentration (Tc). Detailed information for the subarea CN
Number of reaches 0–10
and Tc can be entered here or on other windows; if detailed
Types of reaches Channel or Structure
Reach Routing Muskingum-Cunge information is entered elsewhere the computational results
Structure Routing Storage-Indication are displayed in this window.
Structure Types Pipe or Weir
Structure Trial Sizes 1–3
Rainfall Depth1 Default or user-defined 0–50 inches
(0–1,270 mm) Watershed Subareas and Reaches
Rainfall Distributions NRCS Type I, IA, II, III, NM60, NM65,
NM70, NM75, or user-defined To properly route stream flow to the watershed outlet, the
Rainfall Duration 24-hour
Dimensionless Unit Standard peak rate factor 484, or user must understand how WinTR-55 relates watershed
Hydrograph user-defined (e.g. Delmarva–see subareas and stream reaches. Figure 3.31 and Table 3.29
Example 3) show a typical watershed with multiple sub-areas and
Antecedent Moisture
Condition 2 (average) reaches.
1Although no minimum rain depth is listed by the NRCS in the above table, it must
Reaches define flow paths through the watershed to its
be recognized that the original SCS curve number methods, incorporated in this outlet. Each subarea and reach contribute flow to the
newer version, are not accurate for small storms. In most cases, larger storms used upstream end of a receiving reach or to the outlet.
for drainage design are reasonably well suited to this method. Pitt (1987) and Pitt, et
al. (2002) showed that rain depths less than 2 or 3 inches can have significant errors Accumulated runoff from all sub-areas routed through the
when using the CN approach. watershed reach system, by definition, is flow at the
watershed outlet.

Figure 3.30. WinTR-55 system schematic (NRCS 2002a).

WinTR-55 137

Figure 3.31. Sample Watershed Schematic (NRCS 2002a).

Figure 3.32. WinTR-55 opening screen.


WinTR-55 relies on the TR-20 model for all hydrograph

processes, including hydrograph generation, combining
hydrographs, channel routing, and structure routing. The
program now uses a Muskingum-Cunge method of channel
routing (Chow, et al. 1988; Maidment, 1993; Ponce, 1989).
The storage-indication method (NRCS NEH Part 630,
Chapter 17) is used to route structure hydrographs.

Example: WinTR-55 Setup and Operation

An application using WinTR-55 and the previously

presented urban watershed example, is shown on Figures
3.32 through 3.41. Figures 3.42 and 3.43 are other screens
available in WinTR-55 that can be used to aid in the
calculation of some of the site data, while Figure 3.44 is used
for detention facilities (structures).
This WinTR-55 example resulted in a peak flow for the
2-yr storm of about 730 cfs, compared to the previously
calculated value of 910 cfs. This difference is due to the Figure 3.33. WinTR-55 small watershed basic information screen.
different routing procedure used, plus the more precise
hydrograph development procedure in the updated
WinTR-55 version compared to the tabular hydrograph

TABLE 3.29. Sample Watershed Flows (NRCS 2002a).

Flows into
Subarea Upstream End of Reach Flows into
Area I Reach A Reach A Reach C
Area II Reach C Reach B Reach C
Area III Reach C Reach C OUTLET
Area IV Reach B Reach D OUTLET
Area V Reach C Reach E OUTLET
Area VI Reach E
Area IX Reach D
Figure 3.34. WinTR-55 reach data screen.

Figure 3.38. WinTR-55 event selection/run screen.

Figure 3.35. WinTR-55 reach flow path screen.

Figure 3.36. WinTR-55 reach routing screen.

Figure 3.39. WinTR-55 calculated hydrograph summary screen.

Figure 3.37. WinTR-55 storm data screen (information automatically

determined by WinTR-55 based on location). Figure 3.40. WinTR-55 hydrograph plot screen.
WinTR-55 139

Example: WINTR-55 Applications to

Construction Sites

As indicated previously, there are a number of situations

where WinTR-55 (or TR-55) can be used to advantage when
evaluating construction sites, including the design of erosion
and sediment controls. These may include:

• Determination of flows leaving the site that may

affect downstream areas. Downstream erosion
controls may include filter fencing along the
project perimeter, or sediment ponds, depending
Figure 3.41. WinTR-55 report generation screen. on flow conditions. These controls must be
completed before any on-site construction is
• Determination of upland flows coming towards the
disturbed areas. These flows must be diverted by
swales or dikes, or safely carried through the
construction sites. Channel design will be based on the
expected flow conditions. These controls must be
completed after the downstream controls, and before
any on-site controls are started.
• Determination of on-site flows on slopes going towards
filter fencing, sediment ponds, or other controls. These
flows also will be needed to evaluate shear stress on
channels and on slopes.

Figure 3.45 is an example map (base map: a portion of a

USGS quadrangle sheet with 20 ft contours) showing a
construction site, and the associated upland and downslope
Figure 3.42. WinTR-55 land use details screen (if data not directly entered).

Figure 3.43. WinTR-55 time of concentration details screen/calculator (if

data not directly entered).

Figure 3.45. Determination of general upslope and downslope drainage

Figure 3.44. WinTR-55 structure data screen for detention facilities. areas from construction site.

drainages. This chapter has illustrated how it is possible to

easily calculate the runoff characteristics affecting the site
and downslope areas for different rain conditions. In
addition, detailed site and rainfall conditions for different
project phases can be evaluated and incorporated in the
design of appropriate erosion and sediment controls.
Figure 3.46 shows subdrainages for the upslope,
downslope, and on-site areas for this example construction
site. Table 3.30 summarizes the characteristics of these areas,
along with the hydrologic information needs for each area.
Most of the site will be cleared and graded, except for the two
small areas near the downslope edge. The upslope diversions
(for U2 and U3) will carry the upslope water to the main
channel. As an example, the diversion length for U2 is 900 ft
long and the elevation drop is 70 ft. The channel slope for
this diversion is therefore 70/900 = 0.08, or 8%.The runoff
from the O1 and O2 on-site areas will be controlled by slope
mulches and filter fences, before the runoff drains to the Figure 3.46. Subdrainage areas on and near construction site.
on-site main channel. A sediment pond will be constructed at
the downslope property boundary before this main channel
leaves the site, receiving runoff from U1, U2, U3, O1, and for this site. This example is for a sediment pond at the
O2. This table shows 2 different rain depths for some downslope boundary. Subareas O3, O4, O5, O6, and O7 are
conditions, based on the following discussion. all very small and do not drain to this pond site, but drain
Table 3.31 and Figure 3.47 is an example using WinTR55 towards the perimeter filter fabric fences. The reach data

TABLE 3.30. Upslope and On-Site Subdrainage Area Characteristics for Construction Site and TR-55 Calculations.
Average Rain
Area Area Area Cover Flow Path CN (all depth,
Notation Location Objective (acres) (Am, mi2) n Slope “C” soils) Ia (in.) P (in.)
U1 Upslope—direct to on site Hydrograph (to be 37.4 0.058 0.4 8% 73 0.74 5.5
stream combined with U2 and U3)
U2 Upslope—diversion to on Peak flow rate and 14.6 0.023 0.4 11.5 73 0.74 5.5
site stream hydrograph (to be
combined with U1 and U3)
U3 Upslope—diversion to on Peak flow rate and 2.4 0.0038 0.4 12.7 73 0.74 5.5
site stream hydrograph (to be
combined with U1 and U2)
O1 On site—drainage to Peak flow rate and 12.6 0.020 0.011 10 91 0.198 6.6
sediment pond and main hydrograph 8.4
site stream (also slope
protection needed)
O2 On site—drainage to filter Peak flow rate and 7.1 0.011 0.011 10.5 91 0.198 4.0
fence and main site stream hydrograph 6.0
(also slope protection
O3 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate and 6.1 0.0095 0.011 5 91 0.198 4.0
filter fence (also slope hydrograph 6.0
protection needed)
O4 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate and 3.1 0.0048 0.011 6.7 91 0.198 4.0
filter fence (also slope hydrograph 6.0
protection needed)
O5 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate and 1.8 0.0028 0.011 11.3 91 0.198 4.0
filter fence (also slope hydrograph 6.0
protection needed)
O6 On site—nothing (will na 1.3 0.0020 0.24 6.7 na na na
remain undisturbed)
O7 On site—nothing (will na 0.3 0.00047 0.24 10 na na na
remain undisturbed)
WinTR-55 141

TABLE 3.30 (continued). Upslope and On-Site Subdrainage Area Characteristics for Construction Site and TR-55 Calculations.
Direct area-depth Peak Unit Peak
Area Tc Tc Runoff, Q (AmQ), Area Flow Discharge
Notation Location Objective Ia/P (min) (hr) (inches) (mi2-inches) Rate (csm/in) (cfs)
U1 Upslope—direct to on site Hydrograph (to 0.13 29 0.48 2.8 0.16 411 66
stream be combined
with U2 and U3)
U2 Upslope—diversion to on Peak flow rate 0.13 25 0.42 2.8 0.064 449 29
site stream and hydrograph
(to be combined
with U1 and U3)
U3 Upslope—diversion to on Peak flow rate 0.13 20.7 0.35 2.8 0.011 449 4.9
site stream and hydrograph
(to be combined
with U1 and U2)
O1 On site—drainage to Peak flow rate 0.03 3.5 0.06 5.4 0.11 662 73
sediment pond and main and hydrograph 0.02 7.3 0.15 99
site stream (also slope
protection needed)
O2 On site—drainage to filter Peak flow rate 0.05 1.6 0.03 3.0 0.033 662 22
fence and main site stream and hydrograph 0.03 5.0 0.055 36
(also slope protection
O3 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate 0.05 4.1 0.07 3.0 0.029 662 19
filter fence (also slope and hydrograph 0.03 5.0 0.048 32
protection needed)
O4 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate 0.05 3.3 0.06 3.0 0.014 662 9.3
filter fence (also slope and hydrograph 0.03 5.0 0.024 16
protection needed)
O5 On site—towards perimeter Peak flow rate 0.05 1.5 0.03 3.0 0.0084 662 5.6
filter fence (also slope and hydrograph 0.03 5.0 0.014 9.3
protection needed)
O6 On site—nothing (will na na na na na na na na
remain undisturbed)
O7 On site—nothing (will na na na na na na na na
remain undisturbed)

assumed for reach A (the main channel to the outlet) is as features, including the Tc values. This table also shows the
follows: 1240 ft. long at 0.04 (4%) slope, n = 0.08, and calculated peak discharge rate for each of these areas. The
bottom width = 10 ft. The channel side slopes are 1 to 3. following WinTR-55 example shows the calculations for the
Table 3.31 shows subareas O1 and O2 draining into reach A, hydrograph entering the sediment pond (using Tuscaloosa,
but they actually drain directly to the outlet (the pond). AL, rain conditions).

• Filter fences will be located along the side and bottom

edges of the site, affected by O3, O4, O5, O6, and O7 Design Storms for Different Site Controls
subdrainage areas.
• Upslope channel diversions will be located along the All of the information needed to calculate the expected
upper edge of the site; subdrainage areas U2 and U3 flows from these upslope and on-site areas is shown on Table
will drain towards the site and drain into the on-site 3.32. The area has a SCS type III rain distribution and the
channel. construction period is assumed to be one year. The different
• All upslope areas, U1, U2, and U3, will be directed to site features will require different design storms due to the
the on-site drainage channel. The O1 and O2 on-site different levels of protection that are appropriate. Table 3.32
subdrainage areas will also drain to this on-site lists the features and the (assumed) acceptable failure rates
channel. during this one-year period, along with the corresponding
• A sediment pond will be located at the downslope edge design storm frequency and associated 24-hr rain total
of the property on the on-site drainage channel and appropriate for the area. The design storms range from 4.0 to
collects the water from U1, U2, U3, O1, and O2. 8.4 inches in depth and the times of concentration range from
1.5 to 30 minutes. The design rain intensities could be very
Table 3.30 summarizes the subarea hydrologic site large for some of these design elements.

TABLE 3.31. WinTR55 Example for Sediment Pond (10-year rain event).

Figure 3.47. Subcatchment and outfall hydrographs for sediment pond location, WinTR55 example.
WinTR-55 143

TABLE 3.32. Acceptable Levels of Protection for Different Site Activities.

Acceptable Failure Rate during Design Storm Return 24-hr Rain Depth Associated with
Site Construction Control 1-year Site Construction Activities Period (years) this Design Storm Return Period
Diversion channels 25% 4 5.5
Main site channel 5% 20 6.6
Site slopes 10% 10 6.0
Site filter fences 50% 2 4.0
Sediment pond 5% and 1% 20 and 100 6.6 and 8.4
Downslope perimeter filter fences 10% 10 6.0

Runoff Water Depth n = the sheet flow roughness coefficient, and

s = the slope (as a fraction)
In some construction erosion control designs (such as
those that use the shear stress calculations in Chapter 5), the Figure 3.48 contains plots of calculated flow depths for
water depth is needed for sheetflow conditions. The different slope conditions, using Birmingham, AL, rain
following equation can be used to calculate the estimated conditions. These data are used later in Chapter 5 for
water depth for sheetflow, based on the Manning’s equation calculating slope stability and needed reinforcements. These
(R, the hydraulic radius is equal to the flow depth for calculations used the Rational formula for the rain falling
sheetflow): directly on the slopes, with the time of concentrations equal
3/ 5
Ê qn ˆ to the travel time of runoff down the slopes (as shown earlier
y=Á ˜
Ë1.49s 0. 5 ¯ in Figure 3.22). The Rational coefficients were varied
where, depending on the slopes, according to typical values given
for lawns in good condition: C = 0.11 for slopes <2%, C =
y = the flow depth (in feet), 0.16 for slopes between 2 and 7%, and C = 0.24 for slopes
q = the unit width flow rate (Q/W, the total flow rate, in >7%. These coefficients are averaged for sandy and heavy
ft3/sec, divided by the slope width, in ft, ft 2/sec) soil conditions. The calculations were made for several

Figure 3.48. Calculated flow depths for different slope conditions.


Figure 3.48 (continued). Calculated flow depths for different slope conditions.
WinTR-55 145

Figure 3.48 (continued). Calculated flow depths for different slope conditions.

surface roughness conditions representing a range of slope determining site hydrographic and hydrologic conditions at
surfaces at construction sites, including smooth surfaces construction sites. This chapter is a fundamental component
(bare soil), fallow, cultivated soils, dense grass, and light of a complete approach for evaluating and solving
underbrush. The slopes ranged from 1 to 100 percent and construction site erosion problems. These tools will be
the slope lengths were as long as 300 ft, the generally referenced frequently in the other book chapters.
maximum accepted slope length for silt fences, or for terrace
The Birmingham, AL, IDF curves for 2 and 10 year IMPORTANT INTERNET LINKS
frequency storms (events having a 50 and 10% chance of
occurring in any one year), are example design storms for Maps and Aerial Photographs:
erosion controls on construction site slopes. These IDF
curves (shown earlier in Figure 3.9) are for NRCS type III
rainfall distributions and have 24-hr total rain depths of 6
inches for the 10-yr event and 4.2 inches for the 2-yr
event. The IDF curves assume the same rain intensities for all
times of concentrations less than 5 minutes. That, plus
changes in the Rational runoff coefficient for different Alabama Rainfall Atlas:
slopes, cause the discontinuity on these plots at about 10
percent slopes.
The deepest water depths were for the flattest, but longest WinTR-55 computer program (new windows version, ver.
slopes, conditions that maximize the catchment area, 1.0.08, Jan 2005):
increase the likelihood of substantial friction effects, and
hinder drainage. Typical maximum water depths on the wintr55.html
slopes are about 0.25 to 0.5 inches when the slopes have
TR-55 1986 documentation and early version of TR55
some residue, or growing grasses. If bare, the maximum
depths can be much less. The slope length appears to be
about twice as important as the slope angle in determining
the water depth.
TR-20 computer program (new windows January 2005
This chapter reviewed rain conditions that affect erosion at
construction sites. In many cases, a relatively few of the National Engineering Handbook, Part 630 HYDROLOGY
annual rains are responsible for the vast majority of the
erosion potential. The much more common small rains likely 630.html
contribute a very small fraction of the annual erosion losses
from construction sites. The larger rains result in the greatest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hydrologic Management
erosion and translate into much more substantial and costly System User Guide (replacement for HEC-1) and River
sediment controls than if the focus could be only on the Analysis System User Guide for water surface profile
smaller rains. As frequently noted in this book, preventative calculations (replacement for HEC-2):
erosion control strategies are much more cost effective than
many of the treatment options.
This chapter also examines several approaches for
calculating runoff conditions at construction sites. For some REFERENCES
design objectives, peak flow rates are needed, while
complete hydrographs may be necessary to meet other Aldridge, B.N., and Garrett, J.M. Roughness Coefficients for Stream
objectives. WinTR-55 is emphasized as a suitable and simple Channels in Arizona. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, 87 p.
method for obtaining design flows and hydrographs for 1973.
construction site erosion control design and for site Arcement, Jr., G.J.and V.R. Schneider. Guide for Selecting Manning’s
evaluation. Long-term continuous simulations would be Roughness Coefficients for Natural Channels and Flood Plains. United
States Geological Survey Water-supply Paper 2339 and
preferred for site evaluations, but a comprehensive model FHWA-TS-84-204. undated. (
that considers construction site features and potential wsp2339.pdf).
controls is not readily available. Barnes, H.H., Jr. Roughness Characteristics of Natural Channels. U.S.
The chapter ends with a comprehensive example for Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1849, 213 p. 1967.
Problems 147

Benson, M.A., and Dalrymple, Tate. General Field and Office Procedures States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Northeast
for Indirect Discharge Measurements. U.S. Geological Survey National Technical Center. 12 pp. 1986.
Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations book 3, chap. Al, 30 p. Thronson, R.E. Comparative Costs of Erosion and Sediment Control,
1967. Construction Activities. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Chow, V.T. Open-Channel Hydraulics. New York, McGraw- Hill Book EPA430/9-73.016. Washington, D.C. 1973.
Co., 680 p. 1959. Welle, P.I., Woodward, D. E., Fox Moody, H., A Dimensionless Unit
Chow, V.T., Maidment, D. R, and Mays, L. W., Applied Hydrology, Hydrograph for the Delmarva Peninsula, Paper No. 80-2013, ASAE
McGraw-Hill, 586 pages. 1988. 1980 Summer Meeting, 18 pp. 1980.
Cowan, W.L.. Estimating Hydraulic Roughness Coefficients. Agricultural
Engineering, v. 37, no. 7, p. 473–475. 1956.
HEC. HEC-RAS User’s Manual, Version 2.0. U.S. Army Corps of PROBLEMS
Engineers, Hydrologic Engineering Center, April 1997.
Illinois. Illinois Procedures and Standards for Urban Soil Erosion and
Sedimentation Control. Association of Illinois Soil and Water
1. A rectangular, forested 10-acre parcel of property has
Conservation Districts, Springfield, IL 62703. 1989. been purchased by a developer for conversion to a
Maidment, D. R. (ed.), Handbook of Hydrology, McGraw-Hill, 1422 pages. three-shop strip mall. Can this plot of land be considered
1993. a watershed? Why or why not? What factors support
McGee, T.J. Water Supply and Sewerage. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York. your decision?
1991. NRCS. National Engineering Handbook, Part 630 HYDROLOGY,
downloaded June 23, 2002 at:
quality/common/neh630/4content.html. 2. Delineate the watershed that is draining to the
NRCS. SITES Water Resource Site Analysis Computer Program User’s specified outlet in the maps given below. Compute the
Guide. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources
watershed slope, the channel length and the channel
Conservation Service. 469 pp. 2001.
slope. The interval contours are 20 ft. Describe the site
NRCS. TR-20 System: User Documentation. United States Department of
Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 105 pp. 2002b
soils and determine the areas for each soil type in the
(draft). watershed.
NRCS. WinTR-55 User Manual. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural
Resources Conservation Service. Downloaded on June 23, 2002 from:
ml Version dated April 23, 2002a.
Pitt, R. Small Storm Urban Flow and Particulate Washoff Contributions to
Outfall Discharges, Ph.D. Dissertation, Civil and Environmental
Engineering Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI,
November 1987.
Pitt, R. and S.R. Durrans. Drainage of Water from Pavement Structures.
Alabama Dept. of Transportation. 253 pgs. September 1995.
Pitt, R., J. Lantrip, R. Harrison, C. Henry, and D. Hue. Infiltration through
Disturbed Urban Soils and Compost-Amended Soil Effects on Runoff
Quality and Quantity. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Water
Supply and Water Resources Division, National Risk Management
Research Laboratory. EPA 600/R-00/016. Cincinnati, Ohio. 231 pgs.
December 1999.
Pitt, R., M. Lilburn, S. Nix, S.R. Durrans, S. Burian, J. Voorhees, and J.
Martinson Guidance Manual for Integrated Wet Weather Flow (WWF)
Collection and Treatment Systems for Newly Urbanized Areas (New
WWF Systems). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 612 pgs.
Pitt, R, S. Chen, and S. Clark. “Compacted urban soils effects on infiltration
and bioretention stormwater control designs.” Global Solutions for
Urban Drainage; 9IUCD. CD-ROM Proceedings of the 9th International
Urban Drainage Conference, edited by E.W. Strecker and W.C. Huber.,
Sept 8–13, 2002, Portland, OR. Sponsored by the ASCE, Reston, VA,
and the International Water Association, London. 2002.
Ponce, V.M., Engineering Hydrology, Prentice Hall, 640 pages. 1989.
SCS (now NRCS). Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds. Technical
Release 55, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service.
91 pp. 1975.
SCS. Urban Hydrology for Small Watersheds. Technical Release 55. U.S.
Dept. of Agric., Soil Conservation Service. 156 pgs. 1986. Note: The above map has 20 ft contour lines
SCS. Time of Concentration, Hydrology Technical Note No. N4. United 3. Sources, and the resultant effects, of uncertainty are

Soil map (source: Dauphin County, PA USDA, obtained from

Soil map with aerial photograph (source: Dauphin County, PA USDA, obtained from
Problems 149

always a concern when making hydrologic calculations. rate on a 3,280-ft section of asphalt roadway that is 60 ft
Compute the channel slope between sections 1 and 4 wide using the NRCS tabular hydrograph method.
and for each of the three reaches. Average the computed Assume a 10-yr design frequency and your local IDF
slopes for the reaches. Is the slope calculated based on curve and rain type.
averaging the reach slopes similar to the overall 10. Calculate the time of concentration for the watershed
watershed slope? Why or why not? How will this affect shown in Problem 2, assuming the natural channel is 5 ft
design decisions for the site assuming the entire wide at the bottom and had 5:1 (h:v) side slopes.
watershed is developed? Assume good wood cover for the watershed and make
4. For the reaches described in Problem 3, calculate the reasonable assumptions as needed.
Survey Section Elevation (ft) Distance from Outlet
11. For the watershed delineated in Problem 2 and the Tc
calculated in Problem 10, calculate the peak runoff rate
1 82 0
2 92 10,300 for the 25-year storm (assuming B soils and good wood
3 103 13,600 cover and making other reasonable assumptions as
4 105 15,800 needed) using your local IDF curve.
12. The newest construction site in the watershed shown in
average velocity in these channels assuming that the Problem 1 has been delineated (the limits are outlined in
channel is concrete lined, has side slopes of 3:1 (h:v), black on the map copied below). Delineate the
and the depth of flow is 0.2 ft. The base width is 4 ft. watershed that will drain the entire construction site to
How does the velocity change if the channel is the creek.
grass-lined? Does slope have a greater effect on the Note: The above map has 20 ft contour lines
velocity for concrete- or grass-lined channels?
5. On a construction site, it is necessary to construct a
grass-lined diversion channel. The cross section has a
width of 10 ft, a depth of 1.5 ft, and side slopes of 4:1
(h:v), find the velocity assuming a slope of 0.002 ft/ft
and an earthen surface with short grass (<6 inches
6. A small forested watershed (light understory brush) has
an elevation drop of 15 ft and a principal flow path of
1000 ft. Compute the travel time along this flow path
using the NRCS Time of Concentration method,
assuming that the slope is consistent along this flow path
and no channel flow occurs. Compare the results for
sheetflow lengths of 100 ft and 300ft. Use the 2-year
storm for your local area.
7. A graded, but unpaved, highway section under
construction has a concrete gutter, with a longitudinal
slope of 4% and a length of 10,800 ft. Determine the
travel time using the NRCS Time of Concentration
method. The sheetflow path will be across the lane
section that is 40 ft wide with 0.5 lateral slope. Use the
2-year storm for your local area. Assume the gutter flow
is shallow-concentrated flow.
8. The critical flow path for the time of concentration
consists of the following sections. Estimate the time of 13. Conduct a watershed analysis for the area containing
concentration using the NRCS Time of Concentration your construction site (delineate the area into upstream,
method. on-site, and downstream areas). Calculate the
9. Using the Tc from Problem 8, estimate the peak flow hydrologic information needed for the eventual design
of the expected erosion and sediment controls. Select
Section Slope (%) Length (ft) Land Use appropriate levels of service (design storms) for each
1 5.5 160 Forest (light underbrush) area and device. Obtain local information as needed and
2 3.1 690 Short gras
3 2.4 370 Bare ground make all necessary assumptions.
4 1.1 520 Riprap-lined waterway


Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 151
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 153
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 155
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 157
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 159
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 161
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 163
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 165
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 167
Appendix 3.A. Tabular Hydrograph Unit Discharges (from TR-55, SCS 1986) 169


U.S. (FROM TR-55, SCS, AND TP-40)
Appendix 3.B. Rainfall Distribution for the U.S. (from TR-55, SCS, and TP-40) 171
Appendix 3.B. Rainfall Distribution for the U.S. (from TR-55, SCS, and TP-40) 173

Erosion Mechanisms, the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation

(RUSLE), and Vegetation Erosion Controls

INTRODUCTION bare soils can greatly decrease the transfer of energy to the
soil, thereby lessening erosion losses.

Kconstruction ofsitetheenables
NOWLEDGE potential erosion problems on a
the site planner to better
When a raindrop strikes a surface, pressure acts to
destabilize the particles. The raindrop impact loading
manage site development and erosion controls to minimize function is very different from a uniform loading function
soil movement off the property. Prevention (erosion control) (Huang, et al. 1982). The initial loading magnitudes are very
is much more effective than trying to improve the water high, but diminish very rapidly. These loadings are also not
quality of the runoff (sediment control). Information in this uniform and are concentrated at the edge of the contact area.
chapter enables a planner to understand basic erosion When the drop strikes a surface, lateral jet streams impinge
mechanisms and how they vary for different site conditions. on adjacent irregular surfaces or dirt particles, as shown on
Characteristics of construction site erosion material are Figure 4.1, further destabilizing the surrounding area
highly dependent on site conditions and the local rainfall. (Springer, 1976). It is very difficult to model the specific
This chapter describes how the Revised Universal Soil Loss drop impact forces due to these irregularities and simple
Equation (RUSLE) can be used to predict the amount of approximations are usually used.
erosion from a site, and it introduces some preventative Kinnell (1981) defines two forms of raindrop kinetic
practices to minimize site erosion. An introduction to energy, the rate of expenditure of energy per unit time (Err,
RUSLE2 is also provided—an emerging powerful tool that in units of energy per area per time) and the amount of
should provide more powerful and accurate insights to rainfall kinetic energy expended per unit quantity of rain
construction site erosion problems, and their control—as it (Era, in units of energy per area per rain depth). Based on
becomes more fully developed over the next several years. typical drop sizes of about 1.5 mm, known drop populations
(see Figures 4.2 and 4.3), and a terminal velocity of about 5.5
m/sec, it can be calculated that each drop contains about 3 ×
BASIC EROSION MECHANISMS AND 10−4 joules of kinetic energy (Springer, 1976). A 3 mm per
RAIN ENERGY hour rain delivers about 11 joules per m2 per minute (Err),
while a 12 mm per hour rain delivers about 30 joules per m2
Soil erosion results when soil is exposed to the erosive per minute. Err and Era are related:
powers of rainfall energy and flowing water (Barfield, et al.
1983). Rain (along with the shearing force of flowing water) Era = Err (I)−1
acts to detach soil particles, while runoff transports the soil
particles downslope. The most significant factor causing where I is the rain intensity. The Universal Soil Loss
sheet erosion is raindrop impact, while the shearing force of Equation (USLE) (Wischmeier and Smith, 1965) uses a
flowing water is most important in rill and gully erosion. similar equation to predict rain energy.

Erosion Mechanisms
Soil detachment usually has been related to raindrop EQUATION (RUSLE) AND RELATING RAIN
parameters and soil parameters (Huang, et al. 1982). The ENERGY TO EROSION YIELD
most important rain parameter is kinetic energy, while the
most important soil parameter is shear strength. Soil The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) (Wischmeier
detachment occurs when rain energy overcomes the soil’s and Smith, 1965) was based on many years of data from
shear strength. This is why the use of surface mulches over about 10,000 small test plots from throughout the U.S. Most


Various Erosion Mechanisms Found at Construction Sites

Small-scale sheet erosion on tops, rill erosion forms further downslope, Sheet flows forming concentrated flows which will eventually form rill
and finally deposition zones, on a material stockpile at a construction site. and possibly gully erosion.

Large-scale sheet and rill erosion and isolated gully erosion beginning to Extensive gully erosion on unprotected steeper slopes of detention pond.
start at an inadequately protected construction site.

Sheet and rill erosion on hillside.

The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 177

Various Erosion Mechanisms Found at Construction Sites (continued)

Several inches of material have been eroded by sheetflows at this Gully erosion beginning to form where concentrated flows form after
construction site. sheetflows.

Large gully from concentrated flow (Bill Morton photo). Gully erosion where concentrated flows formed, and down gradient
deposition area in seeded construction area.

Figure 4.1. Raindrop impact with ground surface (from Springer, 1976.
Adapted with permission. Erosion by Liquid Impact. 1976. ©V.H. Winston
Figure 4.3. Characteristics of an idealized natural rain consisting of
& Son. Inc., 360 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, FL 33480. All rights
constant diameter spherical droplets distributed uniformly in air (from
Springer, 1976. Adapted with permission. Erosion by Liquid Impact. 1976.
©V.H. Winston & Son. Inc., 360 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, FL
test plots had approximately 22-m flow lengths at 9% slopes. 33480. All rights reserved).
All were operated in a similar manner, allowing the soil loss
measurements to be combined into a predictive tool. The
information for the RUSLE, including the USDA’s National
USLE has been extensively used for conservation planning
Sedimentation Laboratory where extensive information can
in agricultural operations for decades. Many of the features,
be obtained ( The
and the original database, also allow it to be used to predict
RUSLE document (Renard, et al. 1987) and the material on
erosion losses, and the benefits of some erosion controls, at
this referenced web site should be consulted for much greater
construction sites. The RUSLE only predicts sheet and rill
detail on RUSLE than can be given in this chapter. This
erosion; it does not predict the effects of concentrated runoff
chapter focuses on construction site erosion issues and is
and gully formations.
greatly simplified compared to the complete RUSLE that
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE)
stresses agricultural operations, but does periodically refer to
(Renard, et al. 1987) was developed to incorporate new
construction site issues.
research since the earlier USLE publication in 1978
The underlying assumption in the RUSLE is that
(Wischmeier and Smith, 1978). The basic form of the
detachment and deposition are controlled by the sediment
equation has remained the same, but modifications in several
content of the flow. The erosion material is not source
of the factors have been made. There are many sources of
limited, but the erosion is limited by the carrying capacity of
the flow for sediment. When the sediment load reaches the
carrying capacity of the flow, no further sediment can be
carried along by the flow. Sedimentation must also occur
during the receding portion of the hydrograph as the flow
rate decreases (Novotny and Chesters, 1981).
The RUSLE relates the rate of erosion per unit area (A) to
the erosive power of the rain (R), the soil erodibility (K), the
land slope and length (LS), the degree of soil cover (C), and
conservation practices (P):

A = (R)(K)(LS)(C)(P)
The important aspect of this equation to note is the linear
relationship between the equation parameters. As any
parameter is changed, the resulting erosion yield is similarly
changed. Also, the default values for LS, C, and P are all 1.0.
Figure 4.2. Typical rain drop size distribution (from Springer, 1976.
Adapted with permission. Erosion by Liquid Impact. 1976. ©V.H. Winston
They are changed by the planner as specific site and
& Son. Inc., 360 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, FL 33480. All rights management conditions change. Many of these factors will
reserved). change seasonally, especially those corresponding to plant
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 179

energies and erosion yields. Therefore, the example rain

TABLE 4.1. Conversion Factors to Estimate Volume of
Eroded Material.
energy calculations in the following subsections are used to
directly relate the probabilities of individual rain events to
Conversion Factor approximate erosion yields.
to Convert tons to
Wischmeier (1959) found that the best predictor of R was:
Soil Texture Class cubic yards
Sands, loamy sands, sand loam 0.70 1 n Èm ˘
Sand clay loam, silt loams, loams, and 0.87 R= Â Í Â ( E)( I 30 ) k ˙
n j =1 Î k =1
silty clay ˚
Clay loams, sandy clays, and silty clays 1 where E is the total storm kinetic energy in hundreds of
ft-tons per acre, I30 is the maximum 30-minute rainfall
intensity, j is the counter for each year used to produce the
growth and those affected by changes in rain and average, k is the counter for the number of storms in a year, m
temperature characteristics. A modified version of RUSLE, is the number of storms each year, and n is the number of
RUSLE2, is currently being developed. It will incorporate years used to obtain the average R.
many of these seasonal changes. Some of these (especially The calculated erosion potential for an individual storm is
the seasonal variations in rainfall erosivity) can be usually designated EI. The total annual R is therefore the sum
considered in RUSLE (see later description of RUSLE2). of the individual EI values for each rain in the year.
In this chapter, this equation is used to predict the amount Wischmeier also found that the rain kinetic energy (E)
of soil that may be eroded from construction sites. could be predicted by:
Specifically, it enables the most critical source areas to be
identified, and allows predictions of the benefits of basic E = 916 + (331)log10 (I), in ft-tons/acre per inch or rain
mulching and seedbed controls. Also, the erodibility of where I is the average rain intensity. E is given in ft-tons per
different slope and timing options can be compared for better acre per inch of rain, if intensities in inches per hour are used
preventive design. In addition, RUSLE can be used to predict (for up to 3 in/hr). Hence, the rain energy (and R parameter)
the amount of sediment that may enter a sediment pond. is dependent only on rain intensities. Table 4.2 shows the
Table 4.1 includes conversion factors that can be used to calculated kinetic energy per inch of rain for different rain
predict the volume of sediment given the weight of sediment intensities (calculated using this equation). As an example, a
generated, according to the RUSLE calculations. As an rain having an average intensity of 0.37 in/hr would have a
example, if a site is predicted to erode about 450 tons of calculated kinetic energy of 773 ft-tons per acre of land per
silty-clay soil, the associated volume in cubic yards, is about inch of rain. The maximum calculated kinetic energy using
0.87 times this amount, or about 390 cubic yards of material. this equation is 1074 ft-tons/acre/in. It would be applied to
rain intensities of 3.0 inches/hr and greater. This equation has
Rainfall Energy (R) been used to calculate the R values for the maps in RUSLE
(Renard, et al. 1987). However, Renard, et al. (1987)
The RUSLE implies that rain energy is directly related to recommend the following equation for all future R
erosion yield. Originally, the USLE was used with an annual calculations:
R value to predict annual erosion yields, but Barfield, et al.
(1983) summarizes several procedures and studies that have E = 1099 [1 − 0.72 exp(−1.27I)],
demonstrated relationships between individual storm also in ft-tons/acre per inch of rain

TABLE 4.2. Rainfall Energy for Different Rain Intensities (ft-tons/acre-inch).

Intensity (in/hr) 0.00 0.01 002 003 0.04 0.05 0.06 0.07 0.08 0.09
0 0 254 354 412 453 485 512 534 553 570
0.1 585 599 611 623 633 643 653 661 669 677
0.2 685 692 698 705 711 717 722 728 733 738
0.3 743 748 752 757 761 765 769 773 777 781
0.4 784 788 791 795 798 801 804 807 810 814
0.5 816 819 822 825 827 830 833 835 838 840
0.6 843 845 847 850 852 854 856 858 861 863
0.7 865 867 869 871 873 875 877 878 880 882
0.8 884 886 887 889 891 893 894 896 898 899
0.9 901 902 904 906 907 909 910 912 913 915
1.0 916 930 942 954 964 974 984 992 1000 1008
2.0 1016 1023 1029 1036 1042 1048 1053 1059 1064 1069
3.0 1074* 1074 1074 1074 1074 1074 1074 1074 1074 1074
*1074 ft-tons/acre/inch is the maximum value and is applied for all intensities greater than 3.0 inches per hour of rain.

TABLE 4.3. Procedure for Calculating Kinetic Energy using a Rain Gage Record (Wischmeier and Smith, 1978).
Rain Gage Chart Readings Storm Increments Kinetic energy
Accumulative Depth Duration Amount Intensity Per Inch For Increment
Time (inches) (minutes) (inches) (in/hr) (ft-tons per acre per inch of rain) (ft-tons per acre)
4:00 0
4:20 0.05 20 0.05 0.15 643 32
4:27 0.12 7 0.07 0.60 843 59
4:36 0.35 9 0.23 1.53 977 225
4:50 1.05 14 0.70 3.00 1074 752
4:57 1.20 7 0.15 1.29 953 143
5:05 1.25 8 0.05 0.38 777 39
5:15 1.25 10 0 0 0 0
5:30 1.30 15 0.05 0.20 685 34
Totals 1.30 90 1.30 1284

They found less than a 1% difference in EI for example R, compared to other U.S. locations. As an example, the
storms calculated using the two methods. The largest lowest values in Alabama are found in the northern part of
difference was for less intense events where little erosion the state, with R values of about 300. Most of the state has R
occurs. values between 300 and 400, while values greater than 600
Wischmeier and Smith (1978) present an example for are shown for Mobile and Baldwin counties. Only the
calculating the rainfall kinetic energy from a rain gauge southern tip of Louisiana has a larger value of R in the
record, as illustrated in Table 4.3. In this example, the total continental U.S. (slightly more than 700).
kinetic energy of the storm equals 1284 ft-tons per acre, or
12.84 hundreds of ft-tons per acre. The maximum 30 minute Example: How Do the Rainfall Patterns Affect
rainfall during this 90-minute storm was 1.08 inches, Erosion Control Strategies?
occurring from 4:27 to 4:57. The corresponding I30 was
therefore 2.16 inches per hour. The EI for this storm is There can be large year-to-year variations in the annual R
calculated as (2.16)(12.84) = 27.7. (Note: If the storm values and individual storms may be responsible for large
duration is less than 30 minutes, the I30 used is twice the total fractions of the annual rain energy. Table 4.4 presents
rain depth, with a maximum used I30 value of 2.5 in/hr.). measured probabilities of the annual R values for three
Figures 4.4 through 4.7 (the isoerodent maps) presents Alabama locations (Wischmeier and Smith, 1978). The 50
values of R for the eastern U.S. and the western states. The percent probability values are the values plotted in Figure
USDA’s National Sedimentation Laboratory (at 4.4. Table 4.5 shows the frequency of expected magnitudes
http://www.sedlab. olemiss. edu/rusle/) contains extensive of the calculated single-storm erosion index (EI) values. For
information on RUSLE and rainfall erosivity. The values example, there is a 5% chance that a single storm in any year
shown in this figure were averaged from 20 to 25 years of could cause about half of the total annual erosion in the
data. The break between individual rains was defined as 6 Birmingham and Montgomery areas (annual R values
hours, or more, having less than 0.5 inches of rain. Rains of between 350 and 400), and about 30% of the total annual
less than 0.5 inches, separated from other showers by 6 erosion in Mobile (annual R values between 600 and 650).
hours, or more, were omitted from the calculation, unless the The typical worst storm in any one year may cause about 15
maximum 15-minute intensity was greater than 0.95 in/hr. to 20% of the total annual erosion in any of these cities.
Also, the maximum I30 value used in the calculations was 2.5 As was discussed in Chapter 3, rainfall is distributed
in/hr. unevenly throughout the year in a single location, resulting in
Locations in the southeast experience very high values of

TABLE 4.5.Probabilities of Individual Storm Erosion

TABLE 4.4. Probabilities of Annual R Values for the
Index (EI) Values for Alabama Locations
Calculation Period for Alabama Locations
(Wischmeier and Smith, 1978).
(Wischmeier and Smith, 1978).
Probability of Single Storm Exceeding EI Value
Observed in Any One Year:
22-year 50 Percent 20 Percent 5 Percent
Range Probability Probability Probability 100% 50% 20% 10% 5%
Birmingham 179–601 354 461 592 Birmingham 54 77 110 140 170
Mobile 279–925 673 799 940 Mobile 97 122 151 172 194
Montgomery 164–780 359 482 638 Montgomery 62 86 118 145 172
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 181

Figure 4.4. Isoerodent map of the Eastern U.S. (EPA, 2001).


Figure 4.5. Isoerodent map of the Western U.S. (EPA, 2001).

The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 183

Figure 4.6. Isoerodent map of California (EPA, 2001).


Figure 4.7. Isoerodent map of Oregon and Washington U.S. (EPA, 2001).
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 185

TABLE 4.6. Distribution of the Erosivity Index Values for

Different Time Periods throughout
the Year for Index Zones in the Southeast.
Period 106 107 108 109 119
Jan 1–15 3 3 3 3 1
Jan 16–31 3 2 3 3 1
Feb 1–15 3 2 3 4 2
Feb 16–29 4 3 3 3 2
Mar 1–15 4 4 4 3 1
Mar 16–31 4 4 4 3 2
Apr 1–15 6 5 4 4 3
Apr 16–30 6 4 4 3 3
May 1–15 5 4 5 3 3
May 16–31 6 4 5 4 5
Jun 1–15 5 4 5 6 8
Jun 16–30 6 6 7 8 9
Jul 1–15 6 8 9 11 5
Figure 4.8. Rainfall erosion index zones for southeastern U.S. (Renard, et Jul 16–31 6 7 10 10 9
al. 1987). Aug 1–15 4 7 6 7 6
Aug 16–31 4 7 5 5 9
Sep 1–15 3 6 4 3 6
Sep 16–31 3 4 3 3 10
an uneven distribution of the rainfall energy. For that reason, Oct 1–15 3 2 3 2 4
the U.S. has been divided into rainfall erosion index zones. In Oct 16–31 2 2 2 2 4
each zone, the distribution of R in a year (i.e., the percentage Nov 1–15 4 2 2 2 1
Nov 16–31 4 3 2 3 1
of R that can be associated with any specific range of dates) is
Dec 1–15 3 2 2 2 1
similar. Figure 4.8 shows the rainfall erosion index values Dec 16–31 3 5 2 3 1
for the southeast. Appendix 4A includes the erosion index Source: EPA’s Construction Rainfall Erosivity Waiver, Fact Sheet 3.1. EPA
map and associated tables for the entire country. The 833-F-00-014. Jan, 2001.
USDA’s National Sedimentation Laboratory webpage (at also catalogs this
data. In Alabama, there are five regions, although most of the construction period. The same construction plan would not
state is in regions 107 or 108. In contrast, North Dakota has meet the waiver requirement if construction occurred during
one zone. These regions are used to predict the fraction of the the times when North Dakota typically receives its
annual R that occurs in 2-week increments throughout the “heaviest” rains.
year. Incremental R information is useful for planning As indicated above, a relatively few rains can contribute
relatively rapid, but sensitive, construction practices, and to much more of the annual rainfall energy than most, with the
see if a potential project may be eligible for the possible “R≤5 more intense rains contributing greater erosion losses per
total” exemption rule. Table 4.6 lists these distribution inch of runoff than the less intense rains. As an example, the
values for R for these areas in the state, while Appendix 4A most important single rain in the Birmingham area that may
includes the values for all regions of the U.S. occur in any one year has an R value of about 54, and
The values in Table 4.6 are the percentage of the total therefore contributes about 15 percent of the annual erosion
annual R values that occur in each 2 week period. If the R of losses. The most important single rain that may occur once
≤5 waiver will be available in Alabama and much of the every ten years has an R value of about 140 and may
southeast U.S., only the very rare construction activity may therefore contribute about 40 percent of the annual erosion
be eligible. Only small portions of region 119 may possibly losses for that year. This ten year rain would only contribute
qualify (if the annual R<500) and if the construction activity about four percent of the average ten year total erosion losses
could be completed within a 2-week period during in any one year, however.
November, December, or January. The erosivity index An analysis was conducted using the typical 1977
values range from lows of 1% to a high of 11% per two week Birmingham rains to determine the distributions of erosion
period. Periods greater than the average of 4.1% indicate factors for individual rains and their recurrence intervals.
periods when higher amounts of erosion than the overall This year was selected due to its similarity to the long-term
average may occur. Depending on location, these periods are average rain conditions (based on total annual rain depth and
generally from the first of April through August, or the distribution of the rains throughout the year). Most of the
September. Periods with the lowest erosion potentials are in erosion is produced by a relatively few highly-erosive rains
the fall, winter and early spring. In contrast, construction in that may occur during any month. About 50 percent of the
North Dakota could feasibly last for two-to-three months and annual erosion yield is associated with only 11 individual
still meet the “R ≤ 5” waiver, depending on the selected rains (out of 96 that occurred in 1977). Approximately 40

TABLE 4.7. Probabilities of Highly Erosive Rains Occurring During Different Time Periods (Birmingham 1977 data).
Probability of Event Occurring at
Least Once per:
Percentage of Annual Erosion Estimated Erosion Yield During Single
Yield During Event Event (with some site controls) (lb/acre) 7 days 14 days 30 days
7% 3,500 3% 6% 12%
5 3,000 8 16 31
3 1,800 17 31 55
2 1,200 29 50 77
1 600 45 70 92
Probable number of events per time period (out of 96): 2 4 8
Probable total erosion yield per time period (lb/acre): 1,200 2,300 5,000

percent of the individual rains were responsible for more matter), structure, and permeability. The NRCS county soil
than 90 percent of the annual erosion yield, and about 25 maps list the K factors for all soils in each county. However,
percent of the rains were responsible for about 75 percent of significant disturbance and modifications of the soil
the annual erosion yield. obviously occurs at construction sites and care needs to be
The probabilities of different highly erosive rains taken to ensure that the K factor used in the calculations is
occurring during 7-, 14-, and 30-day periods for Birmingham based on the actual surface soil conditions. As an example,
1977 conditions were calculated. Table 4.7 indicates these the organic matter (decreases as the top soils are removed),
probabilities and the expected erosion yields for these time permeability (decreases with compaction with heavy
periods. Most erosion-protection regulations require equipment), and soil structure (subsurface soils more
disturbed areas inactive for more than 14 days to have massive than surface soils) could all likely change, causing
suitable site erosion controls. During a 14-day period of the K factor to increase for a soil undergoing modification at
time, more than a ton of sediment could be washed from each a construction site.
disturbed acre during four separate rain events. There is a 30
percent chance that the same amount of sediment could be Soil Classifications
washed from the site during a single event during this time
period. If this time period was lengthened, the amount of The designation for a sand or clay is given in the Unified
sediment that could be lost and the probability of Soil Classification System, ASTM D 2487. Sandy soils, by
highly-erosive rains occurring would increase definition, must have more than half of the material be larger
proportionately. Because of these potential significant than the No. 200 sieve, and more than half of that fraction
sediment losses, most regulations also require appropriate must be smaller than the No. 4 sieve. Similarly, for clayey
downslope controls to capture any sediment that may move soils, more than half of the material is required to be smaller
from uncontrolled disturbed areas on the site. However, than the No. 200 sieve. Silt soils are intermediate between
downslope controls are not adequate by themselves in sands and clays in their size. Figure 4.10 is the standard soil
controlling all sediment during highly erosive rains. The texture triangle defining the different soil texture categories
onsite protection offered by mulching of inactive disturbed and Table 4.8 shows the standard USDA particle size ranges
areas (in addition to the diversion of waters from upslope for the different soil texture categories.
offsite areas) greatly lessens the burden on the downslope Silt particles are barely visible to the naked eye and have
controls and allows them to remain useful during severe (but many properties that fall between the values for sand and
common) rains. clay are intermediate in many properties between sand and
clay. Silt is characterized by its plasticity and stickiness.
Soil Erodibility Factor (K)

Soil texture, and other soil characteristics, affect the soils TABLE 4.8. USDA Particle Size Ranges for Different Soil
susceptibility to erosion. The soil K factors were determined Texture Categories.
experimentally in test plots that were 73-ft (22-m) long and
Size Range
had a uniform slope of 9%. Normally, more than 10 years of Soil
runoff plot data was needed to determine these values in Particle micrometers millimeters inches
order to eliminate any effects from prior organic material and Cobble 150,000 to 300,000 150 to 300 mm 6 to 12 in.
mulch, as well as effects associated with mechanical Gravel 2,000 to 150,000 2 to 150 0.08 to 6
Sand* 50 to 2,000 0.05 to 2.00 0.002 to 0.08
disturbance from constructing the plots. Figure 4.9 is the Silt 2 to 50 0.002 to 0.05 0.00008 to 0.002
nomograph used to determine the K factor for a soil, based on Clay <2 <0.002 <0.00008
its texture (% silt plus very fine sand, %sand, %organic *“very fine sand” is in the 50 to 100 µm range
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 187

Figure 4.9. USDA nomograph used to calculate soil erodibility (K) factor.

According to the USDA (1993), the silt content is an shrinks when dry and swells when wet. These characteristics
important characteristic for determining erodibility because affect the permeability of soils and are very important to their
silt-sized particles are easily detached and transported in use and management. Clayey soils retain water that should
runoff. The small particle size also makes silt difficult to be available for plant growth, but these soils are often dense,
capture in sediment traps or basins. There are two major hard, wet, airtight, acidic, and infertile. They can restrict root
types of clays found in the natural environment—kaolinite growth even though other factors are favorable.
and montmorillonite. Kaolinite is relatively inactive and The AASHTO system classifies soils according to the
fairly stable. Montmorillonite is a very active clay that properties that affect roadway construction and maintenance.
The fraction of a mineral soil that is less than 3 inches in
diameter is classified in one of seven groups from A-1
through A-7 on the basis of grain-size distribution, liquid
limit, and plasticity index. Soils in group A-1 are coarse
grained and low in silt and clay. Soils in group A-7 are fine
grained. Highly organic soils are in Group A-8 and are
classified on the basis of visual inspection.

Problem: An Evaluation of Soil Conditions

Affecting Construction Site Erosion Problems

The Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee

produced the Alabama Handbook for Erosion Control,
Sediment Control, and Stormwater Management on
Construction Sites and Urban Areas in 1993 (USDA 1993),
which was recently revised in 2003 in time for use with the
Phase II stormwater regulations. This discussion is
summarized from that manual.
Soil formation in Alabama has been influenced primarily
by parent materials and relief. The Appalachian Plateau,
Figure 4.10. Standard USDA soil texture triangle. Limestone Valleys and Uplands, and Piedmont Plateau of

Northern Alabama are all products of uplift and extended soils cover about 75% of the county. The urban soils
geologic erosion. The Coastal Plain and Blackland Prairie currently comprise much more than the amounts shown on
sections of the state represent the sedimentation and this table due to the urban development that has occurred
deposition products from millions of years of geologic during the past 25 years since these surveys were last
erosion. As a result, soils differ among the major soil areas updated. In many areas of the country, this information is
throughout the state. available on the Internet. The NRCS will provide the updated
Many characteristics of soils, including texture, organic soil surveys through their website (http://websoilsurvey.
matter, fertility, acidity, moisture retention, drainage, and In Pennsylvania, the soils information
slope, have an influence on the soils’ vulnerability to compiled by NRCS is hosted by the Penn State server
erosion. Except for most of the Prairie area, most disturbed ( The type of graphical information
sites after grading end up with a surface layer of acid infertile provided by the Soilmap PA website is shown in Figure 4.11
subsoil materials. The soils of these sites can be toxic to Availability on the Internet is fortunate, as many of the older
many plants and may not be capable of supporting growth bound-paper surveys are out of print.
sufficient to prevent erosion. Construction activities further For this Jefferson County example, the K values range
restrict plant growth by increasing compaction and altering from 0.17 to 0.37. No K values are available for the urban
the slopes and drainage patterns. To offset these problems, soils, as they have been dramatically disturbed and no
the original site topsoil should be removed, stockpiled, and generic values could be assigned. For “urban soils,” soil
reapplied to the disturbed area. Soil amendments (limestone samples should be collected and analyzed and the
and fertilizer) should also be applied based on a soil test of nomograph in Figure 4.6 used to estimate appropriate K
the area. In some areas, special seedbed preparation will also values. It is interesting to note that almost all of these most
be necessary. common soils are on moderately-steep to steep slopes. Also,
County soil surveys are available from local Natural the soil erodibility factors are given for several soil horizons
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, formally the Soil for most soils. The K values may increase or decrease with
Conservation Service, or SCS) offices. These surveys depth for the different soils. The K factors for different soil
include a tremendous amount of information about local horizons can be used to determine the erosion rates for a site
soils, including special concerns about different land uses in for different stages of excavation as these lower soil horizons
those areas. The following information is summarized from are exposed. In areas of fill, the characteristics of the “new”
the Jefferson County, AL, soil survey prepared by the SCS in exposed soil must be considered, and Figure 4.9 must be
1981, and is presented as an example of the type of used to determine an estimated K value based on the
information available from the county soil surveys. measured properties.
Soil information for the 10 most common Jefferson These generally clayey soils in northern Alabama have
County, AL, soils are listed in Tables 4.9 and 4.10. These ten surface horizon K factors of 0.24 to 0.37, with the most
common Jefferson County soils (Montevallo and Nauvoo)

TABLE 4.9. Ten Most Common Soils in

Jefferson County, AL, in 1980. TABLE 4.10. Erodibility Factors, K, for the Most Common
Soils in Jefferson County, AL.
Area in Jefferson County:
Soil name Soil Horizon Depth and Soil Erodibility K Factor
Birmingham 0 to 5 inches 5 to 29 inches
Soil Name Symbol Acres % Soil Type
(0.24) (0.28)
Montevallo-Nauvoo 29 260,930 36.3 Montevallo Bodine 0 to 72 inches
association, steep Nauvoo (0.28)
Nauvoo fine sandy loam, 31 51,440 7.2 Nauvoo Fullerton 0 to 6 inches 6 to 35 inches 35 to 65 inches
8 to 15% slope (0.28) (0.24) (0.20)
Nauvoo-Montevallo 34 44,010 6.2 Nauvoo Montevallo 0 to 6 inches 6 to 16 inches
association, steep Montevallo (0.37) (0.32)
Palmerdale complex, steep 35 29,390 4.1 Palmerdale Nauvoo 0 to 12 inches 12 to 46 inches
Urban land 44 27,080 3.8 Urbaland (0.28) (0.32)
Townley-Nauvoo complex, 40 25,870 3.6 Townley Palmerdale 0 to 60 inches
8 to 15% slope Nauvoo (0.24)
Bodine-Birmingham 8 25,560 3.6 Bodine State 0 to 40 inches 40 to 60 inches
association, steep Birmingham (0.28) (0.17)
Fullerton-urban land 18 21,990 3.1 Fullerton Sullivan 0 to 66 inches
complex, 8 to 15% slopes Urban land (0.32)
Bodine-Fullerton 9 20,720 2.9 Bodine Townley 0 to 4 inches
association, steep Fullerton (0.37)
Sullivan-State complex, 39 19,600 2.7 Sullivan Urban land No specific
0 to 2% slopes State information
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 189

Figure 4.11. Soil map, Pennsylvania (URL:

having 0.37 and 0.28 K values. Sandy soils with low organic impact of the interaction between these two parameters on
content and with high permeability (similar to Gulf Coast erosion losses. The slope length, λ, is the horizontal
soils) may have K values that are less than half of these distances from the start of the erosion area (typically a ridge,
values and could conceivably be as low as 0.05, although but not in all cases) to the start of the area where deposition of
0.10 is the more commonly seen minimum K value for eroded sediment occurs (Figures 4.12 and 4.13). The slope
Alabama soils. K values for soils having different textures length is used in RUSLE for calculating interrill (sheet) and
are listed below (Dion, 2002): rill erosion (but not gully erosion). Several example slope
lengths are shown on Figure 4.13 (Renard, et al. 1987):
Sandy, fine sand, loamy sand 0.10
Loamy sand, loamy fine sand, sandy loam, loamy, silty loam 0.15 • Slope A—If undisturbed forest soil above the slope
Loamy, silty loam, sandy clay loam, fine sandy loam 0.24
Silty clay loam,silty clay, clay, clay loam, loamy 0.28 does not yield surface runoff, the top of the slope starts
with the edge of the undisturbed forest soil and extends
down slope to the windrow, if runoff is concentrated by
There is substantial overlap for the different soil textures, the windrow.
as there are other factors besides texture that are used to • Slope B—Point of origin of runoff to the windrow, if
determine the K value, but this list does illustrate that K the runoff is concentrated by the windrow.
values generally increase as the soil particle sizes decrease. • Slope C—From windrow to flow concentration point.
County soil surveys need to be consulted to determine the • Slope D—Point of origin of runoff to road that
RUSLE K factors for the construction-site soils of interest. concentrates runoff.
• Slope E—From road to flood plain where deposition
Length-Slope Factor (LS) would occur.
• Slope F—On nose of hill, from point of origin of runoff
The erosion of soil from a slope increases as the slope to flood plain where deposition would occur.
increases and lengthens. RUSLE defines a parameter called • Slope G—Point of origin of runoff to slight depression
the length-slope (LS) factor that is used to calculate the where runoff would concentrate

Figure 4.13. Examples of different slope length measurements (Renard, et

al. 1987).

AL, lands have slopes greater than 8% (1981 USDA

Figure 4.12. Definition of slope length as used in RUSLE (Renard, et al. Jefferson County Soil Survey). Land slopes are much less
1987). steep in Alabama below the fall line and approaching the gulf
Once the slope length has been measured (such as from a The RUSLE LS factors have been significantly changed
detailed topographic map), RUSLE includes a table (Table compared to the original USLE LS values. There are now
4.11) for selecting the length-slope factor, LS, according to four separate LS tables, although Table 4.11 is the only one
these site characteristics. Values of 1.0 (the base condition) appropriate for construction sites (freshly prepared sites that
correspond to the standard condition of 9% slope and about are highly disturbed). The LS values have also been generally
73 ft slope length (the dimensions and slopes of the erosion reduced compared to the original values, sometimes by as
test plots). If the length of the slope is 300 ft., or less, the LS much as 50% for the largest values. LS values for slopes less
factor would be less than 0.10 for all slopes of 0.5%, or less. than 20% are similar in both versions. Also, steepness and
Roadway side cuts of 1:2 (50%) would have LS factors length are now more evenly sensitive to the LS factor, while
greater than 1.0 for all slope lengths of about 6 ft, or longer. previously, slope steepness was much more critical.
Long and steep slopes, frequently occurring along roadway If ponding occurs on a site due to heavy rain intensities,
cuts in hilly terrain, can have extremely large LS factors. It is low infiltration rates, and small slopes, the erosion loss will
interesting to note that more than 80% of Jefferson County, be substantially less than predicted using the above LS

TABLE 4.11. LS Values for Freshly Prepared Construction and other Highly Disturbed Soil, with Little, or No Cover
(Renard, et al. 1987).
Slope Length in Feet
Slope <3 6 9 12 15 25 50 75 100 150 200 250 300 400 600 800 1000
0.2 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.06 0.06 0.06 0.06 0.06 0.06 0.06
0.5 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.08 0.08 0.09 0.09 0.10 0.10 0.10 0.11 0.12 0.12 0.13
1.0 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.09 0.10 0.13 0.14 0.15 0.17 0.18 0.19 0.20 0.22 0.24 0.26 0.27
2.0 0.13 0.13 0.13 0.13 0.13 0.16 0.21 0.25 0.28 0.33 0.37 0.40 0.43 0.48 0.56 0.63 0.69
3.0 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.17 0.21 0.30 0.36 0.41 0.50 0.57 0.64 0.69 0.80 0.96 1.10 1.23
4.0 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.26 0.38 0.47 0.55 0.68 0.79 0.89 0.98 1.14 1.42 1.65 1.86
5.0 0.23 0.23 0.23 0.23 0.23 0.31 0.46 0.58 0.68 0.86 1.02 1.16 1.28 1.51 19.1 2.25 2.55
6.0 0.26 0.26 0.26 0.26 0.26 0.36 0.54 0.69 0.82 1.05 1.25 1.43 1.60 1.90 2.43 2.89 3.30
8.0 0.32 0.32 0.32 0.32 0.32 0.45 0.70 0.91 1.10 1.43 1.72 1.99 2.24 2.70 3.52 4.24 4.91
10.0 0.35 0.37 0.38 0.39 0.40 0.57 0.91 1.20 1.46 1.92 2.34 2.72 3.09 3.75 4.95 6.03 7.02
12.0 0.36 0.41 0.45 0.47 0.49 0.71 1.15 1.54 1.88 2.51 3.07 3.60 4.09 5.01 6.67 8.17 9.57
14.0 0.38 0.45 0.51 0.55 0.58 0.85 1.40 1.87 2.31 3.09 3.81 4.48 5.11 6.30 8.45 10.40 12.23
16.0 0.39 0.49 0.56 0.62 0.67 0.98 1.64 2.21 2.73 3.68 4.56 5.37 6.15 7.60 10.26 12.69 14.96
20.0 0.41 0.56 0.67 0.76 0.84 1.24 2.10 2.86 3.57 4.85 6.04 7.16 8.23 10.24 13.94 17.35 20.57
25.0 0.45 0.64 0.80 0.93 1.04 1.56 2.67 3.67 4.59 6.30 7.88 9.38 10.81 13.53 18.57 23.24 27.66
30.0 0.48 0.72 0.91 1.08 1.24 1.86 3.22 4.44 5.58 7.70 9.67 11.55 13.35 16.77 23.14 29.07 34.71
40.0 0.53 0.85 1.13 1.37 1.59 2.41 4.24 5.89 7.44 10.35 13.07 15.67 18.17 22.95 31.89 40.29 48.29
50.0 0.58 0.97 1.31 1.62 1.91 2.91 5.16 7.20 9.13 12.75 16.16 19.42 22.57 28.60 39.95 50.63 60.84
60.0 0.63 1.07 1.47 1.84 2.19 3.36 5.97 8.37 10.63 14.89 18.92 22.78 26.51 33.67 47.18 59.93 72.15
The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and Relating Rain Energy to Erosion Yield 191

factors. The basic method to correct for this over-prediction TABLE 4.12. Construction Site Mulching C Factors
is to estimate the land area subject to ponding and reduce the and Length Limits for Different Slopes
site area accordingly. (Wischmeier and Smith, 1978).
Type of Mulch Rate Land Slope Mulching C Length Limit
Cover Management Factor (C) Mulch (tons per acre) (%) Factor (ft)*
None 0 all 1.0 n/a
The methods used to protect the soil surface will affect the
Straw or 1.0 1–5 0.20 200
amount of soil erosion that may occur. Chapter 5 on channel hay, tied 1.0 6–10 0.20 100
and slope stability, and Chapter 7 on vegetation controls down by 1.5 1–5 0.12 300
contain additional information pertaining to this factor, and anchoring 1.5 6–10 0.12 150
to mulches in general. Wischmeier and Smith (1978) and tacking 2.0 1–5 0.06 400
equipment 2.0 6–10 0.06 200
commented in their original USLE report regarding the 2.0 11–15 0.07 150
model’s applicability and use for construction sites. The 2.0 16–20 0.11 100
following paragraphs are summarized from their prior 2.0 21–25 0.14 75
discussion. 2.0 26–33 0.17 50
2.0 34–50 0.20 35
Site preparations that remove all vegetation and also the
root zone of the soil not only leave the surface completely Crushed 135 <16 0.05 200
stone, 1/4 to 135 16–20 0.05 150
without protection, but also remove the residual effects of 1-1/2 inch 135 21–33 0.05 100
prior vegetation. This condition is comparable to the 135 34–50 0.05 75
standard continuous fallow condition, and C = 1. Roots and 240 <21 0.02 300
residual effects of prior vegetation, and partial covers of 240 21–33 0.02 200
240 34–50 0.02 150
mulch or vegetation, substantially reduce soil erosion. These
reductions are reflected in the soil loss prediction by C values Wood chips 7 <16 0.08 75
7 16–20 0.08 50
of less than 1.0. 12 <16 0.05 150
12 16–20 0.05 100
Mechanical Mulches 12 21–33 0.05 75
25 <16 0.02 200
25 16–20 0.02 150
Applied mulches immediately restore protective cover on 25 21–33 0.02 100
denuded areas and drastically reduce the C values, and hence 25 34–50 0.02 75
erosion. Where mulch effects are insignificant, these C *Maximum slope lengths for which the specified mulch rate is considered effective.
values equal 1.0, the standard value. Straw or hay mulches If these limits are exceeded, either a higher application rate or mechanical shortening
of the effective slope length is required (such as with terracing).
applied on steep construction slopes and not tied to the soil
by anchoring and tacking equipment are usually much less
effective than equivalent mulch rates on relatively flat land. marks indicates the percentage coverage of mulch on the site.
Table 4.12 presents approximate C values for straw, This is repeated randomly on the site to obtain an average
crushed stone, and woodchip mulches on construction site value along with an indication of the variation. Table 4.13
slopes where no canopy cover exists. This table also shows shows the approximate percentage coverage for different
the maximum slope lengths for which these values may be mulching rates for straw, along with the range of erosion
assumed to be applicable. These values are from the original control (Wischmeier and Smith 1978).
(USLE, 1978) guidance and can now be better determined by
making calculations based on specific site and rainfall Vegetative Covers
conditions, as described in the chapters on hydrology
(Chapter 3) and slope stability (Chapter 5). Also, currently It is very important to establish vegetation on denuded
available mulching products and erosion control blankets areas as quickly as possible. A good sod has a C value of 0.01
offer a much greater range of options for controlling erosion or less, but such a low C value can be obtained quickly only
on construction site slopes. However, the values given here by laying sod on the area at a substantial cost. When grass or
are suitable for calculating the effects of a basic mulch. small grain is started from seed, the probable soil loss for the
The percentage mulch cover is what generally determines period while cover is developing can be computed by the
the effectiveness of the mulch. This is the percentage of the standard procedure for estimating crop stage-period soil
soil surface that is covered by mulch laying on the surface. losses. If the seeding is on topsoil without a mulch, the soil
According to Wischmeier and Smith (1978), a simple loss ratios given in Table 4.14 are appropriate for crop stage
method of estimating mulch cover is with a line at least 50 ft C values.
long that has 100 equally spaced markings. The line is When the seedbed is protected by a mulch covering, the
stretched over the mulched surface and the marks that pertinent mulch factor from Table 4.12 is applicable until
contact a piece of mulch are counted. The number of counted good canopy cover is attained. When grass is established in

TABLE 4.13.Straw Mulching Rates, Approximate erosion rate for an agricultural operation. This factor is rarely
Coverage and Corresponding Erosion Control applicable for construction sites and is therefore given a
(data from Wischmeier and Smith, 1978). value of 1.0 for this application, although some construction
site erosion decision support models use the P factor when
Straw Mulch Rate Percent Erosion Control for
(tons per acre) Coverage Selected Coverages considering the effects of on-site controls (Dion, 2002).
Other chapters in this book describe specific hydrologic and
0.10 10%
0.25 30 sediment transport functions that enable these effects to be
0.5 50 directly calculated for specific site and design conditions.
1.0 70 80%
1.5 84 88%
2.0 92 80 to 94%
3.0 97
The following description of RUSLE2 is based on
information provided by the USDA. RUSLE2 is an upgrade
small grain as a nurse crop, it can usually be evaluated as of the text-based RUSLE DOS version 1 model. It is a
“established meadow” about 2 months after the grain is computer model containing both empirical and
harvested after which values in the following discussion can process-based processes in a Windows environment. It
be used. predicts rill and interrill (sheet) erosion by rainfall and
Table 4.15 (from the NRCS’s National Engineering runoff. The USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is
Handbook) lists cover management C factors for land covers the lead agency for developing the RUSLE2 model,
with no trees. This table can be applied to construction sites including developing the technical processes in the model
having temporary or permanent vegetative covers, or and the model interface. The official NRCS RUSLE2
mulches. It indicates the improved erosion control as the Internet site is at: http://fargo.nserl.
ground coverage increases. With good coverage (more than rusle2_dataweb/Tutorial.htm. The model can be
80% ground cover), the erosion control could be 95%, or downloaded from this site, along with supporting documents
greater. These values assume that the vegetation or mulch is and other materials.
randomly distributed over the entire area. In areas with RUSLE2 has evolved from a series of previous erosion
canopies where the rain drops have much less effective drop prediction methods. The USLE was entirely an
heights, and correspondingly less energy, the C factors are empirically-based equation and was limited in its application
further decreased. A mechanically prepared site with no to conditions where experimental data were available for
topsoil and no forest residue mixed in would have a C close deriving factor values. While RUSLE2 uses the USLE basic
to 1.0 if no cover was applied. With an 80% cover of mulch, formulation of the unit plot, the calculations of RUSLE2 are
this type of site (indicative of most construction sites) would based on daily predictions. The major visible change in
have about 90% erosion control. In comparison, the C factor RUSLE2 is its graphical user interface.
for a woodland with 100 percent duff cover (partly decayed Development of RUSLE2 and its support is on-going. A
organic matter on the forest floor) would be a low 0.0001 current project being conducted by the University of
(99.99% erosion control), the lowest reported value. Tennessee for the USDA is providing support to enhance the
model and to further develop the User Guides. This project
Supporting Practices Factor (P) (Development of Documentation Plans for RUSLE2 Science
Component, ARS project #6408-12130-012-12) is
The method of tillage and crop rotations all affect the soil scheduled for completion in 2006.

TABLE 4.14. Cover Factor C Values for Different Growth Periods for Planted Cover Crops for Erosion
Control at Construction Sites (data from Wischmeier and Smith 1978).
SB (seedbed Period 1 Period 2 Period 3a Period 3b Period 3c
Type of Mulch preparation) (establishment) (development) (maturing crop) (maturing crop) (maturing crop)
Crop canopy* 0 to 10% 10 to 50% 50 to 75% 75 to 80% 75 to 90% 75 to 96%
Seeding is on topsoil, 0.79 0.62 0.42 0.17 0.11 0.06
without a mulch
Seeding is on a desurfaced 1.0 0.75 0.50 0.17 0.11 0.06
area, where residual effects
of prior vegetation are no
longer significant
*Percent canopy cover is the percentage of the land surface that would not be hit by directly falling rain drops because the drops would be intercepted by the plant. It is the portion
of the soil surface that would be covered by shadows if the sun were directly overhead.
RUSLE2 Information 193

TABLE 4.15. Cover Factor C Values for Established Plants (data from NEH chapter 3 and Wischmeier and Smith, 1978).
Percentage of Surface Covered by Residue in Contact with the Soil
Percent Plant
Cover1 Type 0% 20 40 60 80 95+
C factor for grass, grasslike plants, or decaying 0 Grass 0.45 0.20 0.10 0.042 0.013 0.003
compacted plant litter.
C factor for broadleaf herbaceous plants (including 0 Weeds 0.45 0.24 0.15 0.091 0.043 0.011
most weeds with little lateral root networks), or
undecayed residues.
Grass 0.36 0.17 0.09 0.038 0.013 0.003
Weeds 0.36 0.20 0.13 0.083 0.041 0.011
Tall weeds or short brush with average drop height2 Grass 0.26 0.13 0.07 0.035 0.012 0.003
of ≥20 inches Weeds 0.26 0.16 0.11 0.076 0.039 0.011
Grass 0.17 0.10 0.06 0.032 0.011 0.003
Weeds 0.17 0.12 0.09 0.068 0.038 0.011
Mechanically prepared sites, with no live vegitation 0 None 0.94 0.44 0.30 0.20 0.10 Not given
and no top soil, and no litter mixed in
1Percent cover is the portion of the total area surface that would be hidden from view by canopy if looking straight downward.
2Drop height is the average fall height of water drops falling from the canopy to the ground.

The following overview is based on information on

RUSLE2 provided by the USDA.
Although mostly intended for agricultural erosion
prevention and farm operation planning, RUSLE2 can be
applied to other erosion problems including construction
sites. Earlier sections of this chapter discussed the major
components of RUSLE, which are generally applicable to
RUSLE2. RUSLE2 is very easy to use; with the exception of
the site topography, the RUSLE2 model user describes the
site-specific field conditions by selecting the appropriate
values and control practices from menus. When a menu
selection is made, RUSLE2 “pulls” values stored in the
RUSLE2 database and uses them as input values to compute
the expected erosion rates. The user enters site-specific
values for slope length and steepness to represent site In the above example, erosivity is nearly uniform at
topography. Memphis, Tennessee, while 80 percent of the erosivity
The following are several important enhancements occurs in the months of May, June and July in North Dakota
available in RUSLE2 that will aid the erosion control (the months having most of the annual rainfall). Soil
planner. With the development of expanded User Guides, erodibility also varies during the year. Erosion is greatest
model enhancements, and model templates in the next when peak soil erodibility, rain erosivity, and vulnerability
several years, RUSLE2 should become the preferred tool to of cover-management all occur simultaneously.
predict erosion rates for construction sites.
• Another important enhancement of RUSLE2 is its
• Although RUSLE can calculate erosion rates for ability to vary the soil erodibility by season. The
2-week increments (through the use of the detailed RUSLE2 user typically selects a soil by soil-map unit
seasonal rainfall erosivity values for all parts of the name from a list of soils in the RUSLE2 database. Soil
U.S.), RUSLE2 extends the resolution to daily erosion erodibility, K, varies by season. It tends to be high
predictions. RUSLE2 also uses seasonal temperature early in the spring during and immediately following
information, along with rainfall, to predict the thawing and other periods when the soil is wet. The
longevity of applied mulches for erosion control. value entered for K is a base value. RUSLE2 uses
Simply selecting the location of the study site monthly precipitation and temperature to compute
automatically uses the correct daily erosivity, monthly K values that vary about the base K value. The
precipitation, and temperature values in the model. The monthly values are then disaggregated into daily
following figure shows plots of the erosivity variations values. Example variations of K computed by RUSLE2
throughout the year for sites in California, Tennessee, for St. Paul, MN, Birmingham, AL, and Tombstone,
North Dakota, and Maryland (USDA 2003): AZ, are shown below (USDA, 2003).

On uniform or convex slopes, the sediment yield is equal

to the soil loss, because there is no depositional area:

An important complex hillslope shape is shown below

The low values for St. Paul during the winter months where a concave section occurs in the middle of the hillslope.
represent frozen soil that is nonerodible. RUSLE2 does not This example is for a cut slope (e.g., road-fill) slope that is
fully represent the thawing period in early spring in St. Paul, common in hilly terrain. Deposition can occur on the
primarily because observed data are too few to determine a mid-section of the hillslope where the road is located. Soil
relationship for this period. The peak for Birmingham in loss occurs on the cut slope and on the fill slope where
March results from rainfall rather than from temperature. overland flow continues across the road onto the cut slope.
The main influence of temperature on temporally varying K Although the steepness and length of the fill slope is the same
values is in late summer when increased temperature as that for the upper cut slope, soil loss is likely to be much
increases soil evaporation and reduces runoff and erosion. greater on the cut slope than on the fill slope because of the
The peak erodibility during the summer for Tombstone is increased amounts of overland flow of water. Although
because most of the annual rainfall at the location occurs USLE and RUSLE cannot easily describe this hillslope, it
during this period. can be easily described in RUSLE2, which also determines
RUSLE2 assumes that soil erodibility is 2.2 times higher the appropriate overland flow slope lengths, and computes
immediately after a mechanical disturbance than after the soil loss on the two eroding portions of the hillslope,
soil has become fully consolidated. Therefore, erosion deposition on the depositional portion of the hillslope, and
decreases with time as the soil becomes more consolidated. final sediment yield from the hillslope. (Note: The
Care must be taken with this factor for construction sites, slope-length used in RUSLE2 does not end where deposition
where soil compaction (and associated soil density) begins for the hillslope profile, as it does in earlier model
increases during construction operations is very common. versions).
RUSLE assumes a decrease in soil density—contrary to what
actually occurs on a site during construction.
• Topography—Slope length, steepness, and shape are
the topographic characteristics that most affect rill and
interrill erosion. Site-specific values are entered for
these variables. The following examples are from the
Technology User’s Guide (USDA, 2003) and describe
some important RUSLE2 topographic features for
construction sites.
On a complex slope, the sediment yield is reduced by
deposition on a downslope concave slope section:
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 195

• Cover Management Practice: Important features on a Storm erosivity—Contains data on the distribution of
construction site include whether or not the land is erosivity during the year.
bare, the soil material is a cut or fill, mulch is applied, Soil—Contains soil data, including erodibility, texture,
or the slope is recently reseeded. The description of any hydrologic soil group, time to consolidation, sediment
cover-management practice is created, named, and characteristics, and soil erodibility nomographs.
stored in the RUSLE2 database. When RUSLE2 is run, Management—Contains descriptions of cover-
the cover-management practice that fits the site-specific management systems. Includes dates, operations, vegetation,
field condition is selected from the menu of choices. type and amount of applied materials.
• Support practices, include contouring, vegetative strips Operation—Contains data on operations (events that
and buffer strips, silt fences, terraces, diversions, and affect soil), vegetation and residue. Includes the sequence of
sediment basins, all reduce eroded soil discharges processes used to describe each operation, such as for an
primarily by reducing the erosivity of surface runoff operation placing residue in the soil: values for flattening,
and by causing deposition. Support practices are burial and resurfacing ratios; ridge heights; and initial soil
selected from a list of these practices in the RUSLE2 roughness.
database. Site-specific information, such as the location Vegetation—Contains data on vegetation, like values for
of a diversion on the hillslope, is entered as required residue type, yield, above-ground biomass at maximum
for each practice. canopy, senescence, flow retardance, root biomass, canopy
cover, fall height, and live ground cover.
If the control segment is sufficiently long (the grass strip is Residue—Contains data that describes the residue
sufficiently wide) and the increase in transport capacity with assigned to each vegetation. Includes values for
distance is less than the detachment quantity, deposition ends decomposition, mass-cover relationship, and how residue
within the segment, as illustrated below (USDA 2003). responds to tillage.
Erosion may occur further down gradient where transport Contouring–Contains values for row grade used to
capacity is available. In this case, the sediment load exceeds describe degree of contouring.
the transport capacity at the upper end of the grass strip, Strips/barriers—Contains data that describes filter strips,
while both sediment and transport capacity increase within buffer strips and rotational strip cropping. Includes
the strip segment. RUSLE2 computes the location where cover-management in strips, width of strips, number of strips
deposition ends and sediment load equals transport capacity, across slope length, whether or not a strip is at the end of the
as well as the additional erosion. slope, and offset of rotation by strip.
Hydraulic system—Identifies the hydraulic elements and
their sequence (e.g., describing the hydraulic systems of
diversions, terraces and impoundments). Includes numbers
across slope length, and whether or not a system is at the end
of the slope or specific locations on the slope length.
Hydraulic element—Contains data on the grade of the
named channel for terraces and diversions.
Subsurface drainage system—Contains data on the
percent of the area covered by optimum drainage.


The following list (USDA, 2003) shows the various
Construction site evaluations have several dimensions:
RUSLE2 database components that comprise the different
different construction phases lasting for different time
parts of the model. The input information is organized using
periods, different soils on different locations and at different
these components, allowing excellent organization and
times reflecting cut and fill operations, changes in the
sensitivity analyses:
gradients and lengths of slopes, and varying cover
Worksheet—Computes soil loss for alternative conditions. Therefore, in order to conduct a site evaluation,
management practices, alternative profiles, and average soil these different dimensions need to be clearly organized.
loss for an area.
Profile—Computes soil loss for a single hillslope profile, Construction Phases
the basic computational unit in RUSLE2.
Climate—Contains data on average annual erosivity, The most basic dimension is understanding the
EI30, rainfall amount and temperature. construction phasing, beginning with site clearing and

grubbing to final contouring. The basic time phases of The LS factor may be the most confusing for a developing
interest for erosion evaluation and control may include the site. Basically, the site will need to be divided into separate
following activities on the site: sections for each slope, from the ridges to the toe of the
slopes. The R factor will be uniformly applied to the whole
1. Install downslope sediment controls (filter fencing and site for each phase period, and the soil maps will help
sediment ponds) indicate the appropriate K factors. Therefore, RUSLE
2. Install upslope diversions and protect on-site channels erosion yields will need to be computed for each separate
that will remain (diversion berms and swales, channel slope, with the results summed to create a total-site erosion
lining, establish buffers, and filter fencing) yield. The complete site will need to be represented, even for
3. Clear and grub first area (minimize area exposed and undisturbed areas (using natural cover conditions).
phase-completion time)
4. Do final contouring of first area (stabilize exposed areas
before moving on to next area) Example: Quantifying Site Erosion for Different
5. Repeat above 2 steps for all other areas, dividing the Construction Phases
whole planned disturbed construction site into areas as
small as possible An example site may be represented by the conditions
shown in Tables 4.16 through 4.18. Once the conditions for
6. Establish roadways and parking areas and install utilities
each site area are fully described and a map prepared
(leaving road bed base, or preliminary pavement, protect
showing the site areas, the resulting factors can be
inlets, etc.)
determined, and calculated soil losses can be displayed in
7. Erect buildings (provide adequate storage for materials tables such as these. This type of analysis also has the
and for construction vehicle parking, practice good advantage of high-lighting areas responsible for most of the
housekeeping, etc.) site erosion, possibly leading to further modifications in the
8. Do final landscaping (remove temporary controls, erosion control plan.
replace with permanent stormwater facilities, irrigate The following example construction area in Birmingham,
vegetation until established) AL, is on a moderately-sloped site, with most slopes of 10
and 12%. About 22 of the 27 site acres will be graded, with
about 5 acres left undisturbed. Approximately 18 acres will
Site Information be used as parking, on-site roads, and commercial buildings,
with about 4.5 acres used for relatively-steep embankments
Site layouts and erosion control plans are needed for each and road cuts.
major phase that alters the construction site contours and soil Table 4.16 shows the erosion predictions for the first
cover. Specifically, RUSLE should be applied for (1) the construction phase, the initial grubbing of existing
initial clearing and grubbing operation, (2) the site reflecting vegetation. The erosion control plan calls for temporary
the final contouring, and (3) the final phases during roadway mulching on the newly cleared land and limiting the active
and utility construction and building erection. As indicated construction area to 5 acres. The 5 acres is being graded to
above, it is hoped that the site can be divided into small units the final site contours. When completed, that area will be
where the clearing to final contouring operations can be stabilized with appropriate erosion controls and then another
completed as rapidly as possible, and temporary soil area will be graded. During this 3 month period, about 1600
protection can then be applied before moving to the next tons of sediment may be eroded from the site, the vast
area. Obviously, small areas, and sites where massive majority from the active area that has no preventative erosion
grading is needed simultaneously over most of the site, will control measures. Sediment control measures (as described
prevent this type of phasing. In this situation, the objective later in Chapter 6) will be used to provide further reductions
will be to complete the grading quickly, and, hopefully, to in sediment losses from the site.
schedule it during periods when the erosion potential is The new site contours will result in milder slopes so the
reduced. calculations for this phase likely represent worst case
During each phase, the following site information will be conditions. The next phase represents the end of the grading
needed to use RUSLE: operations when more established controls are in place, but
still there will be areas of active construction.
1. Expected start and finish dates, and corresponding
Table 4.17 represents site conditions at the end of the
“partial” R based on monthly rain variations
rough grading operations. All site contours are basically in
2. Surface soil K values place, and erosion controls have been newly established.
3. Various slopes and slope lengths over the site for There is still the last 5 acres of active construction that is
calculating the LS factor unprotected, but at it is a much less severe slope. It is seen
4. Type of mulch or vegetated cover that once re-graded and properly protected, the site’s
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 197

TABLE 4.16. Example RUSLE Calculations for Initial Grubbing Phase (same site contours as pre-development,
but stripped cover and with temporary mulch).
Land R for Phase LS Slope Calculated Unit Calculated Total
Site Areas Period (June 16 K Soil Length C Cover Area Soil Loss Area Soil Loss
Areas Area Description (acres) to Sept 15)1 Factor2 Factor Factor3 (tons/acre/period) (tons/period)
A Undisturbed area (L=50 ft; S=3%) 5.23 144 0.15 0.30 0.001 0.01 0.03
B Future development, temp. mulch 5.81 144 0.37 1.46 0.2 15.6 90
(L=350 ft; S=10%)
C Future development, temp. mulch 11.03 144 0.28 1.88 0.2 13.5 150
(L=600 ft; S=12%)
D Future development, active 5.0 144 0.28 6.67 1.0 269 1300
construction (L=600 ft; S=12%)
Total Site 27.07 1600 tons over
3 months
141% of annual R; annual R is 350, so project phase partial R is: (0.41)(350) = 144.
2From county soil map and anticipated surface soils during this phase.
3C factors based on native good cover for undisturbed areas, grubbing debris and 1 ton/ac of straw tacked on newly denuded areas having temporaryberms to limit slope length to

100 ft., and nothing on active construction area (5 acres maximum is allowed to be under active construction at any time).

TABLE 4.17. Example RUSLE Calculations for Rough Grading Phase (final site contours, but still working on final grades).
Land R for Phase LS Slope Calculated Unit Calculated Total
Site Areas Period (Sept 16 K Soil Length C Cover Area Soil Loss Area Soil Loss
Areas Area Description (acres) to Feb 28)1 Factor2 Factor Factor3 (tons/acre/period) (tons/period)
1a Undisturbed area 1.51 105 0.15 0.30 0.001 0.01 0.01
(L=50 ft; S=3%)
1b Undisturbed area 3.72 105 0.17 0.68 0.005 0.06 0.2
(L=100 ft; S=5%)
2 Road cut 0.54 105 0.28 2.67 0.02 1.6 0.9
(L=50 ft; S=25%)
3 Road cut ( 1.37 105 0.37 4.59 0.02 3.6 4.9
L=100 ft; S=25%)
4a Main embankment 0.84 105 0.28 0.40 0.55 6.5 5.4
(L=15 ft; S=10%)
4b Main embankment 0.33 105 0.37 4.56 0.17 30.1 9.9
(L=200 ft; S=16%)
4c Main embankment 1.15 105 0.17 3.09 0.07 3.9 4.4
(L=300 ft; S=10%)
5 Parking area 5.5 105 0.28 0.06 0.02 0.03 0.2
(L=500 ft; S=0.2%)
5a Parking area 5 105 0.28 0.06 1 1.8 8.8
(L=500 ft; S=0.2%)
Active construction
6 Building areas 5.53 105 0.35 0.06 0.02 0.04 0.2
(L=250 ft; S=0.2%)
7a Road segment 0.26 105 0.17 0.57 0.02 0.2 0.1
(L=200 ft; S=3%)
7b Road segment 0.95 105 0.28 0.22 0.02 0.1 0.1
(L=400 ft; S=1%)
7c Road segment 0.37 105 0.28 0.10 0.02 0.1 0.02
(L=250 ft; S=0.5%)
Total Site 27.07 35 tons over
5.5 months
130% of annual R; annual R is 350, so project phase partial R is: (0.30)(350) = 105.
2From county soil map and anticipated surface soils during this phase.
3C factors based on native good cover for undisturbed areas, erosion control mats for road cuts, planted vegetation or tacked mulches on embankments, and gravel pads for parking,

building, and road areas. The vegetation C factor was calculated based on plant growth stages during this construction phase.

sediment losses are significantly reduced. However, failure occur. As an example, more than 50 tons per acre could be
of erosion controls on any of the steep slopes can have lost for every month that one of the 10% slopes was in
important consequences. disrepair.
Table 4.18 illustrates the same site for the final phase, If this site had no erosion controls, an expected 3900 tons
when building finishing is occurring and all grading and final of sediment could be eroded over the 13.5 months of
erosion controls are in place and well established. The construction. This is about 130 tons per acre per year, typical
calculated erosion rate for this site for this last construction for locally-monitored construction sites. These erosion
phase is also quite low, being only about 2 tons per acre for controls are expected to reduce these losses to about 1600
this 5 month period. Obviously, this rate represents the tons, or a reduction of approximately 60%. Most of the
established values due to the low C factors and assuming sediment losses are expected to occur during the initial
careful maintenance of the soil-protecting mulches. clearing and grubbing operations when the slopes have not
This is an example of a phase-specific erosion control plan been reduced. The percentage reductions of sediment losses
that is possible using modern techniques. If these eroding during the final grading operations may be about 90%.
soils are mostly clay loams, the total volume of sediment Effective sediment controls, as described in Chapter 6, also
eroded from this site during the total construction period will be needed for further reductions, especially for the
would be about 1700 cubic yards, with almost all occurring grubbing operations, and in case of periodic slope-cover
during the initial grubbing and clearing operation and before failures.
the site is contoured to its final topography. This amount of
material would be an important consideration when
designing a sediment pond downstream of the eroding Evaluating Timing Options for Construction
areas. This amount of sediment would require about 2 or 3 Operations
feet of sacrificial volume in a well-functioning and
properly- designed sediment pond (see Chapter 6). However, Timing of specific construction operations may have an
it is likely that excessive erosion associated with failure of important effect on the estimated soil erosion rate. As an
the erosion control materials on the steeper slopes may example, the distribution of rainfall energy in Alabama

TABLE 4.18. Example RUSLE Calculations for Final Grading Phase.

Land R for Phase LS Slope Calculated Unit Calculated Total
Site Areas Period (March 1 K Soil Length C Cover Area Soil Loss Area Soil Loss
Areas Area Description (acres) to July 31)1 Factor2 Factor Factor3 (tons/acre/period) (tons/period)
1a Undisturbed area 1.51 196 0.15 0.30 0.001 0.01 0.01
(L=50 ft; S=3%)
1b Undisturbed area 3.72 196 0.17 0.68 0.005 0.11 0.4
(L=100 ft; S=5%)
2 Road cut 0.54 196 0.28 2.67 0.02 2.93 1.6
(L=50 ft; S=25%)
3 Road cut 1.37 196 0.37 4.59 0.02 6.66 9.1
(L=100 ft; S=25%)
4a Main embankment 0.84 196 0.28 0.40 0.55 12.07 10
(L=15 ft; S=10%)
4b Main embankment 0.33 196 0.37 4.56 0.17 56.22 19
(L=200 ft; S=16%)
4c Main embankment 1.15 196 0.17 3.09 0.07 7.21 8.3
(L=300 ft; S=10%)
5 Parking area 10.5 196 0.28 0.06 0.02 0.07 0.7
(L=500 ft; S=0.2%)
6 Building areas 5.53 196 0.35 0.06 0.02 0.08 0.5
(L=250 ft; S=0.2%)
7a Road segment 0.26 196 0.17 0.57 0.02 0.38 0.1
(L=200 ft; S=3%)
7b Road segment 0.95 196 0.28 0.22 0.02 0.24 0.2
(L=400 ft; S=1%)
7c Road segment 0.37 196 0.28 0.10 0.02 0.11 0.04
(L=250 ft; S=0.5%)
Total Site 27.07 50 tons over
5 months
156% of annual R; annual R is 350, so final project phase partial R is: (0.56)(350) = 196.
2From county soil map and anticipated surface soils during this phase.
3C factors based on native good cover for undisturbed areas, erosion control mats for road cuts, planted vegetation or tacked mulches on embankments, and gravel pads for parking,
building, and road areas. The vegetation C factor was calculated based on plant growth stages during this construction phase.
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 199

TABLE 4.18. Alternative Slope Configurations and Corresponding Reductions in Erosion.

Original Slope Alternative Terrace 1 (1 mid-slope bench) Alternative Terrace 2 (5 benches)
Estimated Estimated
New Length (and Approx. New Erosion New Length (and Approx. New Erosion
Slope Length LS Factor Slope terrace width) LS Factor Reduction Slope Terrace width) LS Factor Reduction
0.5% 300 ft. 0.10 0.54% 150 (10) ft. 0.095 5% 0.56% 50 (5) ft. 0.09 10%
3.0 300 0.69 3.2 150 (10) 0.51 26 3.3 50 (5) 0.29 58
10 300 3.09 10.7 150 (10) 1.9 39 11.1 50 (5) 1.0 68
25 300 10.81 26.8 150 (10) 6.0 44 27.8 50 (5) 2.8 74
50 300 22.57 53.6 150 (10) 10.6 53 55.6 50 (5) 5.0 78

(Table 4.6) indicates that for most of the state, June through Comparing Different Slope Design Options
September is the period having the highest erosion potential.
These 4 months have about half of the total annual The information presented in Table 4.11 enables the
erosion-rainfall-related energy. October through February erodibility of different slope conditions to be evaluated. In
are usually the driest Alabama months, with only about 30% most cases, these conditions cannot be changed easily, as
of the annual rainfall related energy occurring during these 5 they were established for the most cost-effective
months. Therefore, if possible, construction activities near development options. However, it is obvious that very steep
sensitive waters could beneficially be scheduled during these slopes are not a good idea. Erosion on slopes greater than
drier months, but highly erosive rains may still occur during 15% can dominate the total erosion from a construction site.
any period of the year. Similarly, efforts should be made to terrace long slopes,
Planning for vegetative covers also must consider the shortening the flow paths down their embankments. Chapter
growing season and the need for supplemental irrigation. 5 will outline the procedures for evaluating specific
Table 4.14 showed how the C cover factors dramatically erodibility and erosion-control solutions for slopes.
change for different growth stages. Obviously, plants that Terracing can be considered as a control option with
rapidly germinate, become established, and mature early, are relatively little effect on the use of the land. Long slopes can
important for erosion control. Mature crops with extensive be divided into separate sections with great benefit. The
canopies are also desired. Local NRCS and agricultural terraces can be built as diversion swales to carry the
extension services can provide suitable lists of plants with accumulated water to a collection point. A reinforced drop
these attributes for a local site. If using erosion control mats chute then can be used to minimize the water flowing across
or sod, differences in cover C factors with time are not very downslope areas. Table 4.19 illustrates some options for
large, and excellent control is available as soon as these are modifying slopes with terracing. The slope angles will
installed. This is especially important for channel linings. If increase as slope length is decreased by the width of the
relying on seeded plantings, several weeks to months may terrace/diversion, which would somewhat offset the decrease
pass before the C factor reduces to less than 0.25 for slopes, in slope length, if no additional land was used for the slope.
and much more time is needed to establish a strong root This table shows that significant reductions in expected
system to withstand flowing waters. However, because of the erosion can occur with terracing, even with the slightly
high costs of erosion control mats, they are usually only used increased slopes. The largest benefits are associated with
in the most critical areas, with less expensive mulches used steeper initial slopes. Of course, almost all slopes will need to
over prepared seed beds whenever possible. Information be stabilized with erosion control mats (especially required if
presented in other chapters allow site hydrologic conditions steep), or at least tacked mulches (if less steep and relatively
and associated shear stresses to be calculated for specific site short). These slope protection calculations are presented in
conditions, ensuring the most efficient use of the different Chapter 5. They will show that terracing also decreases the
cover products. cost of this needed slope protection.

Erosion and Construction The Assignment

1. Describe the different construction phases for your site
The following is excerpted from a homework assignment (initial grubbing and clearing, using pre-development
prepared by Heather Hill, a student at the University of contours; final grading contours during active
Alabama at Birmingham, as part of the Construction Site construction activities, at least). Describe site soils and
Erosion and Sediment Control Class taken during the land cover. Describe the timing of the construction site
summer of 2005. erosion and sediment controls for your site.

The project site is at “the mound of dirt on U.S. 280,” a the ridge with underbrush and mature trees and weeds. The
large pile of previously excavated dirt placed on this 16 acre mound and the access road for the site had sparse vegetation
site near Birmingham, AL, many years ago in anticipation of and mainly weeds and little grass.
construction which was delayed for many years. This area Construction schedule for the site work is as follows:
has been under constant scrutiny by the residents of the area
and the city of Mountain Brook. This area is finally under
Task Start Finish
construction. The site contractor is working 6 days a week,
12 hours a day, to get this project going. The site engineer Culvert Procurement Jun. 13, 2005 Aug. 8, 2005
Culvert Preparation Work Jun. 27, 2005 Jul. 25, 2005
donated the site plans, a detailed site topographic map, Grading/Undercut for grocery store Jul. 5, 2005 Oct. 17, 2005
and their erosion control plan for assistance for this Culvert Installation Jul. 26, 2005 Sep. 19, 2005
project. Culvert Backfill Aug. 9, 2005 Oct. 3, 2005
The first phase of construction was the construction of a Grading North of Green Valley Nov. 1, 2005 Nov. 21, 2005
Retail/Residential Grading Mar. 22, 2006 May 16, 2006
15′ diameter corrugated metal pipe to channel the flow of the Parking Lot Construction May 17, 2006 Sep. 22, 2006
tributary of Little Shades Creek that runs through the site. In
order to do this, a series of pump systems had to be installed
for water diversions. One pump was installed at the Silt fences have been installed in some areas and excelsior
beginning of the creek to collect the waters before entering blankets have been placed on the flat seeded areas that have
the active area of the construction site. This was done by been disrupted. The pumps are working and the holding
placing riprap in the creek bed and lining the upstream side basin is collecting water and working well. Silt fence has
with plastic. The water was then collected and pumped been installed around the creek channel to divert water to the
approximately 1000 feet downstream and released in a basin catchbasin. Approximately 6 acres of the site is undergoing
and allowed to settle a little before releasing into the original active construction. Final plans for the site cover consist of
creek bed. The other pump was installed at the catchbasin asphalt parking lots, landscaping and sod at the entrance and
which collects the site runoff water and then routes it to the around the parking lot. ALDOT seed mix will be used on the
holding pond. The water was then released into a set of cut/fill areas.
baffles for sedimentation control in the pond and then
released back to the creek.
A culvert pipe was also placed in the stream to allow The Assignment Continued
access to the construction site on the other side of the creek.
A road was cut from Green Valley Road to access the stream 2. Apply RUSLE for each of the phases (Table 4.20).
and install the pump. Another road was also cut around the
side of the mound to access the area for the holding pond and 3. Select the appropriate temporary and permanent plants
a laydown area for the fabrication of the 15′ diameter culvert. to be used for construction site erosion control at your
At the same time, Highway 280 was given a facelift to create site, and describe planting and mulching conditions, etc.
turn lanes for access to this new commercial area. Curbs Consider the likely dates for the plantings (Table
were installed and then the road was paved and the median 4.21).
and the edge of the property were grassed and had excelsior
blankets placed over them. Temporary cover for the holding pond and the areas
Currently, phase II has started which includes the major disrupted during the installation of the turn lanes can be
site grading. The mound of dirt is being excavated and sieved millet and ryegrass for this time of year. Millet is suggested
to acquire good backfill for the site. The final site grading for use in Central Alabama for April 1 to August 15 and
will consist of covering the 15′ culvert with approximately Ryegrass for September 1 to October 15. Most of the areas
25′ of backfill and taking the mound down to near the would need to be covered with straw or a temporary erosion
original site grade (approximately elevation 750′). The entire control blanket. Most of the area to be seeded and mulched is
site will be fairly flat and consist mainly of parking lots, flat with less than 2% grade. The holding basin area has
roads and buildings. Green Valley Road will be rerouted to approximately 30% slopes. Permanent plantings would
come down the center of the site and the current Green mainly be sod. The area for sod would be relatively flat with
Valley Road will become part of the commercial about a 3% slope. When the site is ready for sodding,
development. probably in August or September, Bermuda grass or fescue
The soils on the site are described as silty clay and clayey would be appropriate. As with any landscaped area in the
sand by the project manager. The county soil survey Mountain Brook area, the entrance to the site will be planted
describes the soils as a silty loam. The northern portion of the with trees and shrubs and perennial flowers that will be
site is a sandstone and shale ridge. The mound consists of all changed with the seasons. For the most part, there will be
kinds of soils, including rock and debris. little of the final 16 acre high intensity commercial site that
The site is densely vegetated in areas along the creek and will be vegetated.
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 201

TABLE 4.20. Initial Grubbing, predevelopment contours

R for Phase LS Slope Calculated Unit Calculated Total
Site Land Period K Soil Length C Cover Area Soil Loss Area Soil Loss
Areas Area Description Areas (6/27–9/19)1 Factor2 Factor Factor3 (tons/acre/period) (tons/period)
A Undisturbed 9 143.5 0.1 5.1 0.003 0.22 2.0
(L=120 ft, S=25%)
B Future Development 1 143.5 0.24 0.05 0.2 0.344 0.344
Mulch /Straw
(L=20 ft, S=0.2%)
C Active Construction 4 143.5 0.15 3.67 1 79 316
(L=70 ft, S=28%)
D Active Construction 2 143.5 0.15 1.23 1 26 53
(L=1000 ft, S=3%)
Total Site 16 371 tons over
3 months
141% of Annual R, annual R is 350, so project phase partial R is (350)(0.41)=143.5.
2From Jefferson County soils map and anticipated surface soils during this phase.
3C factors are based on native good cover for undisturbed areas, grubbing debris and 1 ton/ac of straw tacked on newly denuded areas, and nothing on active construction areas

Final Grading contours (after active construction, all land covered).

TABLE 4.21. Final Grading contours (after active construction, all land covered).
R for Phase LS Slope Calculated Unit Calculated Total
Site Land Period K Soil Length C Cover Area Soil Loss Area Soil Loss
Areas Area Description Areas (9/20–11/21)1 Factor2 Factor Factor3 (tons/acre/period) (tons/period)
A1 Road 1.1 35 0.28 1.71 0.02 0.34 0.37
(L=500 ft, S=5%)
A2 Road 1.3 35 0.17 0.5 0.02 0.060 0.0775
(L=450 ft, S=2%)
B1 Parking Lot 3.7 35 0.15 0.43 0.02 0.045 0.17
(L=300 ft, S=2%)
B2 Parking Lot 3.1 35 0.28 0.33 0.02 0.065 0.20
(L=150 ft, S=2%)
C Area to be Landscaped 1.3 35 0.28 1.2 0.2 2.4 3.1
(L=75 ft, S=10%)
D Runoff Pond 0.5 35 0.15 1.86 0.2 2.0 0.98
(L=25 ft, S=30%)
E Undisturbed Area 1 35 0.15 9.13 0.003 0.14 0.14
(L=100 ft, S=50%)
F1 Building 1 1.8 35 0.28 0.05 0.02 0.0098 0.018
(L=120 ft, S=0.2%)
F2 Building 2 1.7 35 0.28 0.06 0.02 0.012 0.020
(L=350 ft, S=0.2%)
G Slopes 0.5 35 0.15 2.67 0.2 2.8 1.4
(L=50 ft, S=25%)
Total Site 16 35 6.4 tons over
2 months
110% of Annual R, annual R is 350, so project phase partial R is (350)(0.1)=35.
2From county soils map and anticipated surface soils during this phase.
3C factors are based on native good cover for undisturbed areas, gravel pads for roads, buildings, and parking lots, and mulch in areas and slopes to be landscaped and the runoff


Predicting the Benefits of Alternative Mulches Obviously, other guidance documents are usually available
for other local areas and should be used whenever available.
The USLE (and now the RUSLE) has long been used to As stated in the Alabama Handbook, a dense, vigorous
estimate the benefits of different management systems on growing vegetative cover protects the soil surface from
reducing erosion rates from construction sites. This has raindrop impacts, a major force in causing erosion losses.
mostly been done by estimating C and P values for different Also, vegetation will shield the soil surface from the
control strategies. Mulches have been directly studied at scouring effects of overland flows and decrease the erosive
many erosion test plots, enabling some basic C factors to be capacity of the flowing water by reducing its velocity. The
determined, as shown in Table 4.12. These earlier measured shielding effect of a plant canopy is augmented by roots and
C factors did not include the modern erosion control mats. rhizomes that hold the soil together, improve its physical
Many of the mat producers have sponsored independent condition, and increase the rate of infiltration, further
evaluations of C factors and tolerable shear stress conditions decreasing runoff. Plants also reduce the moisture content of
for their mats to enable the developer to select suitable the soil through transpiration, thus increasing its capacity to
selection of different materials. Chapter 6 will present this absorb water. Suitable vegetative cover therefore offers
additional information. excellent erosion protection. It is also essential to the design
and stabilization of many structural erosion control practices.
Use and Selection of Vegetation at Construction Vegetative cover is relatively inexpensive to achieve and
Sites maintain. Also, it is often the only practical, long-term
solution to stabilization and erosion control on many
As is obvious from the preceding discussions, erosion disturbed sites. Planning from the start for vegetative
prevention at construction sites is critical. The following establishment reduces its cost, minimizes maintenance and
chapters will show that sediment control to remove repair, and makes structural erosion control measures more
particulates and other pollutants from the water flowing from effective and less costly to maintain.
a construction site is generally much more costly and less Plant selection should be considered early in the process of
effective than preventing the erosion from occurring in the preparing the erosion and sedimentation control plan. A wide
first place. The use of vegetation to protect disturbed areas diversity of plant species can be grown in Alabama due to the
soon after clearing and grading is one of the most important variation in both soils and climate. However, for practical,
erosion preventive practices. The following information in economical stabilization and long-term protection of
this chapter presents additional information on “vegetation disturbed sites, plant selection should be made with care.
controls” that can be used to meet these local needs, mostly Many plants are inappropriate for soil stabilization because
summarized from the Alabama Handbook for Erosion they do not protect the soil effectively, or they can not be
Control, Sediment Control, and Stormwater Management on established quick and easy. Some plants may be very
Construction Sites and Urban Areas (USDA, 2003)—an effective for soil stabilization, but are not aesthetically
example of the type of guidance information usually acceptable on some sites. Some plants may even become
available from regional construction site “handbooks.” troublesome pests.

The Story of Kudzu Florida nursery operators, Charles and Lillie Pleas,
discovered that animals would eat the plant and promoted its
Excerpted from the “Amazing Story of Kudzu” use for forage in the 1920s. Their Glen Arden Nursery in
( Chipley sold kudzu plants through the mail. A historical
marker there proudly proclaims “Kudzu Developed Here.”
In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Soil
At night to keep it out of the house. Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control.
The glass is tinged with green, even so . . . Hundreds of young men were given work planting kudzu
From the poem, Kudzu, by James Dickey through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid
as much as eight dollars an acre as incentive to plant fields of
Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the the vines in the 1940s.
Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The problem is that it just grows too well! The climate of
Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the the Southeastern U.S. is perfect for kudzu. The vines grow as
100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government much as a foot per day during summer months, climbing
constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their trees, power poles, and anything else they contact. Under
country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of ideal conditions kudzu vines can grow sixty feet each year.
kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who While they help prevent erosion, the vines can also destroy
used the plant for ornamental purposes. valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight.
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 203

Kudzu (rumored to have been imported into the U.S. for land conservation purposes) can readily take over and kill
the existing vegetation.

Kudzu covering a pasture in Alabama. Kudzu covering trees in Alabama.

This problem led Dr. James H. Miller of the U.S. Forest treatments for at least four years, but some kudzu plants may
Service in Auburn, Alabama, to research methods for killing take as long as ten years to kill, even with the most effective
kudzu. In eighteen years of research, he has found that one herbicides.”
herbicide actually makes kudzu grow better while many have Currently, kudzu covers about seven million acres of the
little effect. Miller recommends repeated herbicide south. The USDA declared it a weed in 1972.

Plant Hardiness Zones Area 1—This area includes lower coastal North Carolina, coastal
South Carolina, coastal and south Georgia, all of Florida, and lower
and coastal sections of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has produced plant This area should use the Hot Climate Grasses which include
hardiness zone maps. They are normally used to help Bermuda, Bahia, Centipede, Carpet, St. Augustine, and Zoysia.
determine the suitability of different plants for an area. These Area 2—This zone is north of Area 1 and includes north coastal
maps are based on the annual average low temperatures and North Carolina, much of central South Carolina, central Georgia,
are therefore most appropriate for permanent vegetation. north and central Alabama, northern Louisiana, south west
Short-term vegetation use does not necessarily have to Tennessee, all except the most northern part of Arkansas, most of
central Texas, and the southern portion of Oklahoma. This area
following the same selection guidelines needed for
should use a limited set of the Hot Climate Grasses including
permanent vegetation. In all cases, it is important to contact Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia.
the local NRCS office, or other erosion control specialists,
Area 3—This area covers much of the middle U.S. including parts
for the most suitable vegetation to consider for a specific site. of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, western North
Figure 4.14 and Table 4.22 shows the current USDA Carolina, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, southern Indiana,
hardiness zone map and the annual average minimum southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southern Kansas, northern
temperatures for selected cities. Oklahoma, northern Texas, most of New Mexico, southern Arizona,
It is possible to simplify this map into fewer zones for and most of coastal California. This area should use Cool Season
Grasses including Tifway Bermuda, Meyer Zoysia, and Zenith
some vegetation types. As an example, the Patten Seed Zoysia.
company (
Area 4—This area covers a band of the upper central U.S.,
simplified the map into five zones for the purpose of
including parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut, a small portion of
selecting permanent turfgrasses. This was possible because southern New York, northern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania,
these grasses are generally adaptable to a broader range of eastern West Virginia, northern Virginia, east Tennessee, central
temperatures than other plants, such as flowers, shrubs and Kentucky, most western Ohio, northern Indiana, southern Michigan,
trees. The following lists their recommendations for northern Illinois, southern Iowa, northern Missouri, southern
Nebraska, northern Kansas, central Colorado, northwest New
turfgrasses in each of these consolidated areas. Not all of
Mexico, northern Arizona, southeast Utah, the southern tip of
these turfgrasses are suitable for erosion control Nevada, much of central California, coastal Oregon, and south
applications, but this list does illustrate a simplified coastal Washington. This zone should use Cool Season Grasses
approach: including Meyer Zoysia, and Zenith Zoysia.

Figure 4.14. USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA).

Area 5—This area covers the upper U.S., north of Area 4 and Pacific Northwest, but many of these grass types are used in
should use Cool Season Grasses. other areas of the country. The following is a description of
Cebeco International Seeds ( introduced grass species commonly used for erosion-
index.html) provides an example of seed selection guidance control seed mixtures, excerpted from a summary paper by
for erosion control. This information is specifically for the Craig Edminster of Cebeco International Seeds. The

TABLE 4.22. Annual Average Minimum Temperatures for Selected Cities.

Fahrenheit Celsius Example Cities
Below –50°F Below –45.6°C Fairbanks, Alaska; Resolute, Northwest Territories (Canada)
–50 to –45°F –42.8 to –45.5°C Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; Flin Flon, Manitoba (Canada)
–45 to –40°F –40.0 to –42.7°C Unalakleet, Alaska; Pinecreek, Minnesota
–40 to –35°F –37.3 to –39.9°C International Falls, Minnesota; St. Michael, Alaska
–35 to –30°F –34.5 to –37.2°C Tomahawk, Wisconsin; Sidney, Montana
–30 to –25°F –31.7 to –34.4°C Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota; Lewistown, Montana
–25 to –20°F –28.9 to –31.6°C Northwood, Iowa; Nebraska
–20 to –15°F –26.2 to –28.8°C Des Moines, Iowa; Illinois
–15 to –10°F –23.4 to –26.1°C Columbia, Missouri; Mansfield, Pennsylvania
–10 to –5°F –20.6 to –23.3°C St. Louis, Missouri; Lebanon, Pennsylvania
–5 to 0°F –17.8 to –20.5°C McMinnville, Tennessee; Branson, Missouri
0 to 5°F –15.0 to –17.7°C Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; South Boston, Virginia
5 to 10°F –12.3 to –14.9°C Little Rock, Arkansas; Griffin, Georgia
10 to 15°F –9.5 to –12.2°C Tifton, Georgia; Dallas, Texas
15 to 20°F –6.7 to –9.4°C Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Florida
20 to 25°F –3.9 to –6.6°C Houston, Texas; St. Augustine, Florida
25 to 30°F –1.2 to –3.8°C Brownsville, Texas; Fort Pierce, Florida
30 to 35°F 1.6 to –1.1°C Naples, Florida; Victorville, California
35 to 40°F 4.4 to 1.7°C Miami, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida
above 40°F above 4.5°C Honolulu, Hawaii; Mazatlan, Mexico
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 205

following excerpt from this paper illustrates the requires well drained soil sites to persist. It is tolerant of mild soil
acidity, and moderately shade tolerant, but requires supplemental
importance of proper seed selection and the assistance of an
fertilizer for proper growth. Orchardgrass cultivars are segregated
expert: into different maturity groups (early, medium and late) for their
relative feed value when used in legume-based forage production
Ryegrass has been used extensively as a short-lived component in systems. Early-maturing short-statured varieties such as Paiute,
erosion control mixtures. Their key attribute in erosion control is Palestine are often recommended because they enter dormancy
rapid seedling establishment, tolerance to slightly acidic soils and during the summer when soil moisture is depleted in the Pacific
excellent spring, and fall forage growth when rainfall is abundant in Northwest. Upon dehydration in the fall, they regrow and
the Pacific Northwest. In addition, they serve as an excellent nurse persist.
crop in low input plantings. Ryegrass is intolerant of droughty, Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) has been used on occasions in
nutrient-deficient soils, and therefore may senescence and die during conservation and erosion control with mixed results. Tall fescue has
the early establishment period, which provides an excellent growing poor seedling vigor, but exhibits good shade tolerance. Once
environment for long lived, grass species. Lolium perenne (Perennial established, it is a very dominate forage producer and may require
ryegrass) tetraploid and diploid sources are commonly used in aggressive management to constrain growth (mowing, burning). Tall
erosion control plantings, the diploid being more tolerant of grazing fescue is tolerant of acidic, poorly-drained, shallow-soil sites, but
pressure (mowing) and more persistent than the larger leafed, more prefers well-drained sandy loam soil sites. In contrast to other
robust and less cold tolerant tetraploid. The use of very late maturing cool-season grasses, tall fescue may not enter into summer-induced
diploid perennials, such as Elka and Essence®, has been dormancy or rest period. Its deep, extensive root system facilitates
recommended to reduce reseeding potential and enhance long lived deep soil-profile water uptake during the summer, and tall fescue can
species establishment. dominate a riparian, upland or wetland site.
Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) is the most commonly Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) has been used to a limited
used cool-season grass in conservation and erosion control in the extent in the Pacific Northwest. Its most redeeming characteristic is
Pacific Northwest. Annual ryegrass has the best seedling vigor and the presence of rhizomes, which provides good soil and plant
lowest cost per pound of all the cool season grass species. At low interface to reduce soil erosion potential. Its most limiting factors are
planting rates it can provide good to fair nurse or companion crop that it has the poorest seedling vigor of all cool-season grasses and is
attributes. At extremely high seeding rates it can provide living intolerant of slightly acidic to acidic soils. To persist, it must be
mulch attributes. Annual ryegrass has excellent reseeding capability established in soils with excellent internal drainage. It also requires
and seeds can remain dormant in soil for up to five years. Therefore, moderate to high soil nutrition and does best in a diurnal environment
its use is often discouraged where mixed-species longevity is where summers are hot and winters cold.
desired. Westerwold ryegrass, and genetic mixtures containing high Creeping bentgrass (Agrostis palustris), “the golf course greens
percentages of Westerwold germplasm, are readily available in the grass,” has been used to a very limited extent for erosion control in
Pacific Northwest (cv Gulf, Oregon Common). Westerwold ryegrass the Pacific Northwest. Bentgrass is very tolerant of acidic, poorly
requires a very short floral induction period for plant vernalization drained soils and exhibits fair to poor seedling vigor. If hydrated
and results in reseeding potential. Under these circumstances, annual throughout the season, it can dominate a planting site because of its
ryegrass can become a weedy grass in erosion-control mixtures. True short, aggressive stoloniferous growth habit. It is therefore
Italian ryegrass cultivars (cv Sultan, Total), developed in Europe, incompatible in grass seed mixtures. Established stands of creeping
that require significantly more floral induction to induce seed bentgrass will require burning or very short mowing to enhance
production should be considered as an alternative if annual ryegrass persistence.
is used. Highland bentgrass (Agrostis castellana) is very tolerant of
There are six species of fine fescue recognized for their use in turf acidic, poorly-drained, or shallow-soil sites and exhibits good to fair
and forage production systems in the Pacific Northwest. They seedling vigor. It also exhibits better summer drought tolerance than
include, but are not limited to, chewings fescue F. rubra L. subsp. creeping bentgrass. Highland bentgrass has larger, more robust
commutata, hard fescue F. longifolia, and sheeps or blue fescue F. stolons than creeping bentgrass, and provides more forage for
ovina; and the rhizomatous type: slender creeping red fescue F. rubra grazing animals and wildlife. Similar to creeping bentgrass, it can
L. subsp. tricholphylla and strong creeping red fescue Festuca rubra dominate a planting site because of its aggressive stoloniferous
L. subsp. rubra. Strong creeping red fescue has been used growth habit and is therefore considered incompatible in grass seed
extensively in conservation and erosion control mixtures primarily mixtures.
because of excellent seedling vigor, tolerance to acidic soils, good Little colonial bentgrass (Agrostis tenuis) has been used in
shade tolerance (understory), and rhizomatous growth habit. Strong conservation and erosion control projects in the Pacific Northwest.
creeping red fescue requires very little supplemental fertilization This is more the result of short seed supplies than a lack of its
once established, and grows well on shallow- and rocky-cut bank adaptation in conservation program. Colonial bentgrass is the only
riparian and upland sites. Strong creeping red fescue is a moderately Agrostis species that is compatible in mixture with other cool-season
tall plant species and is highly compatible with many other tall and grass species. This short, acid-tolerant, fine-leaved species has short
short serial species of introduced grass. prolific stolons that grow more upright than prostate. It exhibits
Timothy (Phleum pratense) has been used as a minor component excellent drought tolerance, requires only modest soil fertility and
in mixtures for wetland, bottomland and stream bank restoration has good to fair seedling germination.
where imperfect soil drainage may be a limiting factor. It is poorly
adapted for erosion control mixtures because of its lack of seedling
vigor. Therefore, mixtures containing rapid establishing species as a
nurse crop are advised. Timothy is also intolerant of drought soils so
Selecting the Right Grasses and/or Legumes
its establishment on well-drained, sloped areas in riparian and upland
sites is not recommended.
Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) is a bunchgrass that has been The Alabama Handbook states that single-species
used extensively in erosion control mixtures in West Coast Mountain plantings are desired in some cases, but most of the time a
Region. It has good seedling vigor, early spring forage growth, but mixture is more desirable. Mixtures can be selected that may

provide protective cover more quickly and can be more useful for temporary seeding or as a nurse crop. Browntop
enduring than a single species. Mixtures need not be millet has early rapid growth, growing two to three feet in
elaborate. The addition of a quick-growing annual or height. It is adapted to fine and medium textured soils of
short-lived perennial provides early protection and facilitates moderate productivity. Foxtail is a fine stemmed plant
establishment of a slower-growing and longer-living growing to a height of four to five feet. The leaves are broad
perennial. It is important to evaluate the merits and weakness and flat. Foxtail millets do best under fairly abundant
of each species in selecting the mixtures for the specific site moisture conditions. German millet is a type of foxtail
to be treated. The addition of a companion or “nurse” crop millet.
(quick-growing annual or weak perennial added to Sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids, like the
permanent mixtures) is a good practice on difficult sites, millets, are warm-season annuals which are useful for
when late seeding, or in situations where the development of temporary vegetation. They are better adapted to medium- to
permanent cover is likely to be slow. The companion crop heavy-textured soils. The small-stemmed, shorter-growing
germinates and grows rapidly, holding the soil until the varieties are more satisfactory for temporary vegetation than
perennial species becomes established. Seeding rate of the the tall coarse-stemmed varieties.
companion crop must be limited to avoid crowding, Annual lespedeza is a warm-season, reseeding annual
especially under optimum growing conditions. legume growing to a height of six to twelve inches. It is
Detailed information on plant species adapted for soil tolerant of low fertility and is adapted to the climate and most
stabilization use in Alabama is contained in the following soils throughout Alabama. It is not adapted to alkaline soils
discussions and from the Internet sources listed at the end of of the Black Belt or to deep sands. It is a good companion
this chapter. Most of these commercial suppliers of seeds and crop for spring-planted sericea lespedeza, filling in weak or
sod will help select the most appropriate species for local site spotty stands the first season without suppressing the sericea.
conditions. Local USDA Agricultural Extension offices may Annual lespedeza can heal damaged areas in the perennial
also be able to provide updated guidance. Using this cover for several years after initial establishment. Two
information makes plant selection more straightforward for species of annual lespedeza are grown in Alabama.
most situations. Specific seeding rates and planting “Common” annual lespedeza volunteers in many parts of
instructions are presented in specifications for local Alabama and is sold under the variety name Kobe. Korean
conditions. They often are provided by regulatory lespedeza is a slightly larger, coarser and earlier-maturing
agencies. plant sold under several variety names. Kobe is superior on
Annual plants grow rapidly, mature, and die in one sandy soils and generally preferable in south Alabama.
growing season. They are useful for quick, temporary cover Korean is better in north Alabama as the seeds mature earlier.
or as a companion crop for slower growing perennials. Rye The preferred seeding dates for annual lespedeza are in the
(cereal) is usually superior to other small grains (wheat, oats, late winter to early spring. It can be mixed with fall seeding,
or barley) for temporary cover. It has more cold hardiness in which case some seeds remain dormant over the winter
than other annuals and will germinate and grow at lower and germinate the following spring.
temperatures. It will provide more fall and early winter Perennial plants, once established, will live for more than
growth and matures earlier than other small grains. Rye one year. They may die back during a dormant period, but
germinates quickly and is tolerant of poor soils. Including will grow back from their underground tubers or rhizomes in
rye in fall-seeded perennial mixtures is particularly helpful succeeding years. Stands of perennials will persist for a
on difficult soils and erodible slopes or when seeding is late. number of years under proper management and
However, seeding rates of rye should be limited to the environmental conditions. They are the principal
suggested rates because a thick stand will suppress the components of permanent vegetative covers. Cool-season
growth of the desired perennial seedlings. No more than 60 perennials produce most of their growth during the spring
lb/acre should be planted when rye is used as a companion and fall and are more cold-hardy than most warm-season
crop. Rye does grow fairly tall in the spring which may be species.
undesirable. If this is a problem, some of the shorter growing Tall fescue is the only cool-season perennial grass
varieties of wheat may be used. Annual ryegrass is not recommended for vegetating disturbed soils in Alabama.
recommended for use as a companion crop in perennial Tall fescue, a cool-season grass, is the most widely-used
mixtures in Alabama. It is highly competitive and, if species in north Alabama for erosion control. It is well
included in mixtures, crowds out most other species before it adapted to all of north Alabama and all but the most droughty
matures in late spring or early summer, leaving little or no soils of central Alabama. Also it can be grown on the Black
lasting cover. It will provide dense cover rapidly, so it can be Belt soils of south Alabama. It thrives in full sun to partial
effective as a temporary seeding, but if allowed to mature, shade and is fairly easy to establish. It will provide
the seed volunteers and can seriously interfere with stabilization the year of establishment. Because tall fescue
subsequent efforts to establish permanent cover. has a bunch-growth habit, it is slow to fill in areas with poor
Millets (Browntop, Foxtail) are warm-season annuals, stands. Therefore, some maintenance will be required on
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 207

washed-out areas or areas of spotty stands to prevent further fast recovery from wear which makes it a good choice
damage. A number of new varieties of tall fescue are for heavy use areas.
becoming available for lawn and other turf use and several
offer definite improvements. However, their higher cost over There are two types of bermudagrass which are important
the standard, Kentucky 31, is seldom justified solely for in soil stabilization. Common bermudagrass, which can be
purposes of stabilization and erosion control. Also, fescue established with seeds or sprigs, and turf-type
seed infected with a fungal endophyte are preferred since bermudagrasses which must be established from vegetative
endophyte-infected plants are more hardy, resulting in material. Common bermudagrass has longer internodes and
longer-lasting stands. Tall fescue is a fall-planted grass. larger leaves than the turf-type hybrid bermudagrass. When
Liberal fertilization and proper liming are also essential for common bermudagrass will be used for permanent
prompt establishment, but once established, it can tolerate vegetation, only seeds that are 98% pure common
minimal maintenance almost indefinitely. White clover is bermudagrass should be planted. Common bermudagrass
sometimes planted with tall fescue. seeds are often contaminated with giant-type bermudagrass
Warm-season perennials initiate growth later in the spring seeds. Giant-type bermudagrass is very competitive and fast
than cool-season species and experience their greatest growing, but is not cold hardy in Alabama. So when common
growth during the hot summer months. Most species of bermudagrass seed contains even a small percent of giant
warm-season perennials do better in the southern one-half of type bermudagrass seed, they will be choked out by the
Alabama, but there are species or varieties that will grow in giant-type bermudagrass. Since the giant-type bermudagrass
north Alabama. The following grasses have proven the most is killed by the cold, a good sod the year of establishment
useful for soil stabilization: becomes destroyed the second year.
The turf-type hybrid bermudagrasses have fine leaves and
• Bahiagrass is a warm-season perennial grass short internodes which make them desirable for lawn, golf
particularly well adapted for growing on sandy soils in courses and other areas where a quality turf is desired.
the southern half of Alabama. It will tolerate acid and However, turf-type hybrid bermudagrasses are more costly
low fertility soils, grow in full sun to light shade, and to establish because they must be planted from sprigs, plugs,
persist almost indefinitely with little or no maintenance or solid sodded. Tifway 419 is the most commonly used
after it is established. However, bahiagrass seedlings turf-type hybrid bermudagrass. The agronomic varieties of
are small and lack the vigor some species of hybrid bermudagrasses do not lend themselves to soil
warm-season grasses possess; it usually takes two years stabilization of construction areas. They too must be
to establish a good sod. Bahiagrass is established with established with vegetative material which makes them
seed. Bahiagrass does produce a fairly dense sod costly to establish.
suitable for low maintenance areas. It has a high Sericea lespedeza or sericea is a deep-rooted,
resistance to wear and recovers fairly fast from wear. It drought-resistant perennial legume, adapted to all but the
produces rhizomes and will fill in small bare spots poorly drained and deep sandy soils of the state. It is long
fairly fast. Bahiagrass will produce seedheads about lived, tolerant of low fertility soils, pest free, and will fix
one to two feet in height throughout the growing nitrogen. It can be a valuable component in most
season and, where this is not a problem, it is probably low-maintenance mixtures. Sericea is slow to establish and
the best choice for stabilizing soil in the southern one will not contribute much to prevention of erosion the first
half of the state. Pensacola is the better variety of year; however, once established it persists indefinitely on
bahiagrass for soil stabilization. It is more tolerant to suitable sites. Plantings that include sericea require mulch
upland sites and is more cold tolerant than Argentine and should include a companion crop such as browntop
bahiagrass. millet, annual lespedeza, or common bermudagrass. Sericea
• Common Bermudagrass is a long-lived perennial that should be planted as early as possible within the planting
spreads by creeping stolons and rhizomes outward date range so as to reduce as much weed competition as
several feet in a growing season. It will survive possible. Also, sericea may be planted in the late fall and
extreme heat and drought. It is not shade tolerant. winter months because many of the seeds will lie
Bermudagrass is best adapted to well-drained fertile dormant until germination the following spring. Sericea
soils. It does poorly on extremely droughty sandy soils does not tolerate frequent mowing and may be considered
and will not grow on poorly-drained soils. It responds unsightly because the old top growth breaks down
well to fertilizer and will establish a dense sod quickly slowly.
from seed. Common bermudagrass will grow in all Crownvetch is a deep rooted, perennial legume adapted
areas of the state. Bermudagrass requires more only to north exposures in the northern tier of counties in
maintenance than bahiagrass and, if a regular Alabama. It is useful on steep slopes and rocky areas that are
maintenance fertility program is not used, it will tend to likely to be left unmoved. It can be seeded in the spring or
slowly decline. It has a high resistance to wear and a fall. Crownvetch requires a specific inoculant.

Summary: Selection of Erosion Control least), uniform establishment, and instant erosion protection.
Grasses Sod is available throughout the country from various
national and local sod farms. These farms carry numerous
This section was excerpted from material prepared by species with varying levels of quality. Rapid establishment
Jason Kirby (2003) as part of his MSCE thesis investigating in grass-lined drainage channels is a great benefit of sod over
the hydraulics of grass swales while at the Department of seeding, although the use of reinforcing turf mats (described
Civil and Environmental Engineering, the University of in Chapter 5) enables the use of seed in channels with
Alabama. All grasses are not the same for erosion control as immediate benefit. In fact, the combination of reinforcing
they vary in their ability to protect and survive in a given turf mats and grass seed may be superior to sod in a channel
environment. Ryegrass is moderately dark green with good (but more expensive).
density (measured by the number of blades of grass per High quality sod is expensive (up to $0.60 per ft2) but will
square inch) and a fine texture. This species is known to contain fewer weeds and have a better appearance. Lower
establish quickly and produce a stable/hearty turf. In addition quality sods have more weeds/pests but save money and will
to its low maintenance requirements, ryegrass has good still establish a good ground cover. Laying sod can cost up to
tolerance to sun, shade, drought, temperature, and wear. $15,000 an acre, so while it has enhanced erosion control
Bluegrass displays a dark green color with dense uniform properties, it needs to be used as a permanent control or, if
coverage. Bluegrass requires moderate maintenance temporary, on a small scale to be cost effective.
(watering, mowing, etc.) and is less tolerant of changes in Seeding an area is much less expensive than using sod
temperature, shade, drought than rye grass. Bluegrass can ($250 an acre) and can provide adequate erosion protection
withstand more abuse (foot traffic, wear) than other similar given time. Germination can take up to a month, and up to six
grasses. Finally, Fescue has deep green blades and is known months may be needed for grass establishment, depending
for its rapid germination and establishment. Fescue is quite on the grass type and planting conditions. Until full grass
tolerant to changes in temperature, wear, shade, and drought. development, constant maintenance (watering, replanting,
Fescue can be maintained with limited effort. Unfortunately, etc.) will be required. In addition to seeding a site for grass
all of these above listed grasses are considered cool-season creation, annual species can be used to supplement
grasses and have limited application in the Southeast. established grasses that may go seasonally dormant. The
Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia share characteristics extra attention seeding requires may make sod a more
similar to the above listed grass, but are better suited to the attractive option, depending on the site. The decision, in
hotter conditions in the Southeast. Commercial grass effect, comes down to a decision between excellent initial
suppliers (S&S seeds, for example, at erosion protection at high cost, or low initial cost with less
will recommend grass types/blends based on site location immediate erosion control.
and other characteristics (slope, watering, etc). These Sod sizing will depend on the farm and grass type selected.
recommendations will identify the appropriate species and Sod pieces can range from 1 ft × 2 ft (residential) to 8 ft × 32
the suggested method of application, such as by seed or ft (commercial applications, especially for golf courses).
sod. Staples may be required to anchor the sod into place until the
The decision to use seed or sod to establish a specified root system is established.
grass type is a crucial one. While most grasses can be Once grass has been established (seed or sod), its physical
established either way, the initial costs and characteristics characteristics become indistinguishable (sod will have
can be significantly different. The following table is a better erosion resistance initially, but once the seeds
general comparison between seeding and sodding. develop, the differences are minimal). Typically, grass can
Sod, as a rule of thumb, cost about 20 times more than withstand a maximum permissible velocity of around 5 ft/s
seeding to install; however, this cost is usually offset by with an absolute maximum of 8 ft/s. Table 4.24 (USDA,
sod’s ability to be planted year round (in the southeast, at 1954) lists the permissible velocities for several grasses.

TABLE 4.23. Comparison Between Seeding and Sodding.

Seeding Sod
Planting Season Fall, and perhaps Spring Anytime
Water Requirements Very High for Germination/Establishment Low (6″ initially then limited for next 3 weeks)
Soil Preparation Tillage, fertilization, etc. Same as for seeding
Weed control Requires Herbicide Minimal, if any
Uniformity Varies based on weeds, washouts, etc. 99–100%
Usability (Traffic) None for 2 months, then limited up to 6 months Normal to high within 2 weeks
Erosion Control None until established, rain will necessitate repair Good control after installation
Cost $0.01 to $0.04 per ft2 $0.14 to $0.60 per ft2
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 209

TABLE 4.24. Permissible Velocities for Several Grasses.

Erosion Resistant Soils Easily Eroded Soils
Maximum Permissible Maximum Permissible
Cover Slope Range Velocity (ft/s) Velocity (ft/s)
0–5 8 6
Bermudagrass 5–10 7 5
over 10 6 4
0–5 7 5
Kentucky Bluegrass 5–10 6 4
over 10 5 3
0–5 5 4
Grass Mixture (Rye, Fescue)
5–10 4 3
Crabgrass 0–5 3.5 2.5
Common Lespedeza 0–5 3.5 2.5
Handbook of Channel Design for Soil and Water Conservation. Technical Paper TP-61. 1954.

Temporary Vegitation—Seeding 2. Temporary vegetation will reduce the amount of

maintenance associated with sediment basins. The
The following is from the Alabama Handbook (USDA, frequency of sediment basin cleanups will be reduced if
2003) and describes seedbed preparation guidance for watershed areas outside the active construction zone are
temporary vegetation. Guidance such as this is usually stabilized.
presented in regional erosion control handbooks. 3. Certain plant species used for temporary vegetation will
produce large quantities of residue which can provide
mulch for establishment of permanent vegetation.
4. Proper seedbed preparation and selection of appropriate
Planting rapid growing annual grasses, small grains, or species are important with this practice. Failure to follow
legumes to provide initial, temporary cover for erosion establishment guidelines and recommendations
control on disturbed areas. carefully may result in an inadequate or short-lived stand
of vegetation that will not control erosion.
Purpose 5. Temporary vegetation is used to provide cover for no
more than one year. Permanent vegetation should be
To temporarily stabilize bare areas that will not be brought established at the proper planting time for permanent
to final grade for a period of more than 30 working days. vegetative cover.
Temporary seedling controls runoff and erosion until
permanent vegetation or other erosion control measures can Specifications
be established. In addition, it provides residue for soil
protection and seedbed preparation and reduces problems of 1. Grading and shaping—Minor grading and shaping may
mud and dust production from bare soil surfaces during be needed to provide a surface on which equipment can
construction. safely and efficiently be used for seedbed preparation
and seeding.
Conditions Where Practice Applies
2. Plant Selection—Plant selection for temporary
vegetation should be based on plant characteristics, site
On any cleared, bare, or sparsely vegetated soil surface
and soil conditions, time of year of planting, method of
where vegetative cover is needed for less than one year.
planting, and the needed use of the vegetative cover.
Application of this practice include diversions, dams,
Plant species commonly used for temporary cover are
temporary sediment basins, temporary road banks, and soil
contained in Table 4.25.
3. Soil Amendments
Planning Considerations a. Apply lime according to soil test recommendations. If
the pH of the soil in not known, use 2 tons of
1. Temporary vegetative cover can provide short term agricultural limestone or equivalent per acre on coarse
protection before establishing perennial vegetation. It textured soils and 3 tons per acre on fine textured
can control rills and excessive erosion on earthen soils. Do not apply lime to alkaline soils or to areas
sediment control structures such as diversions, dams, which have been limed during the preceding 2 years.
and sediment basins. b. Fertilizer application rates should be based on soil test

TABLE 4.25. Commonly Used Plants for Temporary Cover in Alabama.

Seeding Dates
Species Seeding Rate/Ac North Alabama Central Alabama South Alabama
Millet, Browntop or German 40 lbs May 1–Aug 1 Apr 1–Aug 15 Apr 1–Aug 15
Rye 3 bu Sep 1–Nov 15 Sep 15–Nov 15 Sep 15–Nov 15
Ryegrass 30 lbs Aug 1–Sep 15 Sep 1–Oct 15 Sep 1–Oct 15
Sorghum-Sudan Hybrids 40 lbs May 1–Aug 1 Apr 15–Aug 1 Apr 1–Aug 15
Sudangrass 40 lbs May 1–Aug 1 Apr 15–Aug 1 Apr 1–Aug 15
Wheat 3 bu Sep 1–Nov 1 Sep 15–Nov 15 Sep 15–Nov 15

results. When soil test are not possible, apply 500 to 7. Irrigation—Use irrigation when available and needed to
700 pounds of 10-10-10 grade fertilizer. insure establishment. Apply irrigation at a rate that will
4. Seedbed Preparation—Complete grading before not cause runoff.
preparing seedbeds and install all necessary erosion 8. Maintenance—Reseed and mulch areas where seedlings
control practices, such as sediment basins. If soils emergence is poor, or where erosion occurs, as soon as
become compacted during grading, loosen them to a possible. Do not mow. Protect from traffic as much as
depth of 6 to 8 inches using a ripper or chisel plow. Good possible.
seedbed preparation is essential to successful plant
establishment. A good seedbed is well pulverized, loose,
and smooth. Incorporate lime and fertilizer into the top 6 Permanent Seeding
inches of soil during seedbed preparation. If rainfall has
caused the surface to become sealed or crusted, loosen it The following is from the Alabama Handbook (USDA
just prior to seeding by disking, raking, harrowing, or 2003) and describes seedbed preparation guidance for
other suitable methods. When hydroseeding methods are permanent vegetation. Similar guidance may be found in
used, the surface should be left with a more irregular other regional erosion control handbooks.
surface of clods.
5. Planting—Evenly apply seed using a cyclone seeder
(broadcast), drill, cultipacker seeder, or hydroseeder. Definition
Use seeding rates given in Table 4-25. Broadcast seeding
and hydroseeding are appropriate for steep slopes where Controlling runoff and erosion on disturbed areas by
equipment cannot operate safely. establishing perennial vegetative cover with seed.
Small grains should be planted no more than 1 inch
deep, and grasses and legumes no more than 1/2 inch Purpose
deep. Broadcast seed must be covered by raking or chain
dragging, and then lightly firmed with a roller or To reduce erosion and decrease sediment yield from
cultipacker, Hydroseeding mixtures should include a disturbed areas, and to permanently stabilize such areas in a
wood fiber mulch which is dyed an appropriate color to manner that is economical, adapts to site conditions, and
facilitate uniform application of the seed. allows selection of the most appropriate plant materials.
6. Mulching—The use of an appropriate mulch will help
ensure establishment of vegetative cover under normal Conditions Where Practice Applies
conditions and is essential to seeding success under
harsh site conditions. Harsh site conditions include: Disturbed areas where permanent, long-lived vegetative
cover is needed or the most effective method of stabilizing
• seeding in late fall for winter cover (wood fiber the soil. Permanent seeding may also be used on
mulches are not considered adequate for this use), rough-graded areas that will not be brought to final grade for
• slopes steeper than 3:1, and a year or more.
• adverse soils (shallow, rocky, or high in clay or
sand). Planning Considerations
If the area to be mulched is subject to concentrated
water flow, as in channels, anchor mulch with netting, or 1. The most common and economical means of stabilizing
preferably use sod or an erosion control mat. See disturbed soils is by seeding grasses and legumes. The
Chapter 5 for determining channel stability advantages of seeding over other means of establishing
requirements. plants include the smaller initial cost, lower labor input,
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 211

Permanent Seeding Along Highway Right-of-Way

and greater flexibility of method. Disadvantages of be needed to provide a surface on which equipment can
seeding include potential for erosion during the safely and efficiently be used for seedbed preparation
establishment stage, seasonal limitations on suitable and seeding.
seeding dates, and weather related problems such as 2. Plant Selection—Plant selection for permanent
droughts etc. vegetation should be based on plant characteristics, site
2. The probability of successful plant establishment can be and soil conditions, time of year of planting, method of
maximized through good planning. The selection of planting, and the intended use of the vegetated area.
plants for permanent vegetation must be site specific. Climate factors can vary widely in Alabama and the
Factors that should be considered are type of soils, three basic climatic zones were indicated previously.
climate, establishment rate, and management Plant selection may include companion plants to
requirements of the vegetation. Other factors that may be provide quick cover on difficult sites, late seedings, or in
important are wear, mowing tolerance, and salt tolerance situations where the desired permanent cover may be
of vegetation. slow to establishment. Annuals are usually used for
3. The use of irrigation (temporary or permanent) will companion plants. The plants used for temporary
greatly improve the success of vegetation establishment. vegetation may be used for companion plants provided
4. Endophyte-infected tall fescue appears to establish the seeding rate is reduced by one half. Ryegrass or other
quicker and have better survival under adverse highly-competitive plants should not be used as a
conditions than endophyte-free tall fescue. companion plant. Table 4.26 lists suitable perennial
5. The operation of equipment is restricted on slopes plants, along with the seeding rates and dates.
steeper than 3:1, severely limiting the quality of the 3. Seedbed Requirements—Establishment of vegetation
seedbed that can be prepared. Provisions for should not be attempted on sites that are unsuitable due
establishment of vegetation on steep slopes can be made to inappropriate soil texture, poor drainage, concentrated
during final grading. In construction of fill slopes, for overland flow, or steepness of slope, until measures have
example, the last 4–6 inches might not be compacted. A been taken to correct these problems.
loose, rough seedbed with irregularities that hold seeds To maintain a good stand of vegetation, the soil must
and fertilizer is essential for hydroseeding. Cut slopes meet certain minimum requirements as a growth
should be roughened. medium. A good growth medium should have these
6. Good mulching practices are critical to protect against criteria:
erosion on steep slopes. When using straw, anchor with • Enough fine-grained (silt and clay) soil material to
netting or asphalt. On slopes steeper than 2:1, jute, maintain adequate moisture and nutrient supply.
excelsior, or synthetic matting may be required to protect • Sufficient pore space to permit root penetration.
the slope. • Sufficient depth of soil to provide an adequate root
zone. The depth to rock or impermeable layers such
Specifications as hardpans should be 12 inches or more, except on
slopes steeper than 2:1 where the addition of soil is
1. Grading and shaping—Minor grading and shaping may not feasible.

TABLE 4.26. Perennial Grasses, Legumes and Mixtures; Seeding Rates; and Planting Dates for Disturbed Areas in Alabama.
Seeding Dates and Adapted Area
Species Seeding Rate/Ac North Alabama Central Alabama South Alabama
Bahiagrass, Pensacola 40 1bs — Mar l–July 1 Feb 1–Nov 1*
Bermudagrass, Common 10 lbs Apr 1–July 1 Mar 15–July 15 Mar 1–July 15
Bahiagrass, Pensacola 30 lbs — Mar 1–July l Mar 1–July 15
Common Bermudagrass 5 lbs — Mar 1–July l Mar 1–July 15
Bermudagrass, Hybrid (Lawn Types) Solid Sod Anytime Anytime Anytime
Bermudagrass, Hybrid (Lawn Types) Sprigs 1/sq ft Mar 1–Aug 1 Mar 1–Aug 1 Feb 15–Sep 1
Fescue, Tall 40–50 lbs Sep 1–Nov 1 Sep 1–Nov 1 —
Sericea 40–601bs Mar 15–July 15 Mar 1–July 15 Feb 15–July 15
Sericea & Common Bermudagrass 40–60 lbs Mar 15–July 15 Mar 1–July 15 Feb 15–July 15*
10 lbs
*Fall planting of bahia should contain 45 pounds of smallgrain to provide cover during winter months.

• A favorable pH range for plant growth, usually comply with current state fertilizer laws should be
6.0–6.5. used to supply nutrients required to establish
• Freedom from large roots, branches, stones, or large vegetation.
clods. Clods and stones may be left on slopes steeper c. Rates of Soil Amendments—Lime and fertilizer needs
than 3:1 if they are to be hydroseeded. should be determined by soil tests. Soil testing can be
performed by university soil testing laboratories. The
If any of the above criteria are not met—i.e., if the
local county Cooperative Extension Service can
existing soil is too coarse, dense, shallow or acidic to
provide information on obtaining soil tests.
foster vegetation—special amendments or topsoil
Commercial laboratories that make recommendations
should be used to improve soil conditions. The soil
based on soil analysis may be used.
conditioners described below may be beneficial or,
preferably, topsoil may be applied. When soil tests are not available, use the following
4. Soil Conditioners—In order to improve the structure or rates for application of soil amendments.
drainage characteristics of a soil, the following materials Lime (Agricultural limestone or equivalent)
may be added. These amendments should only be
• Light-textured, sandy soils: 2 tons/acre
necessary where soils have limitations that make them
• Heavy-textured, clayey soils: 3 tons/acre (Do not
poor for plant growth or for turf establishment.
apply lime to alkaline soils)
a. Peat—Appropriate types are sphagnum moss peat,
reed-sedge peat, or peat humus, all from freshwater Fertilizer
sources. Peat should be shredded and conditioned in Grasses alone: 800 to 1200 lbs/acre of 10-10-10

storage piles for at least 6 months after excavation. or equivalent.
b. Sand—Clean and free of toxic materials. • Grass-legume mixtures: 800 to 1200 lbs/acre of
c. Vermiculite—Horticultural grade and free of toxic 5-10-10 or equivalent.
substances. • Legumes alone: 800 to 1200 lbs/acre of 0-10-10
d. Rotted manure—Stable or cattle manure not or equivalent.
containing undue amounts of straw or other bedding d. Application of Soil Amendments—Apply lime and
materials. fertilizer evenly and incorporate into the top 6 inches
e. Thoroughly rotted sawdust—Free of stones and of soil by disking, chiseling or other suitable means
debris. All 6 lbs of nitrogen to each cubic yard. during seedbed preparation. Operate machinery on
5. Soil Amendments the contour.
A. Liming Materials—Lime (Agricultural limestone) 6. Seedbed Preparation—Install necessary mechanical
should have a neutralizing value of not less than 90 erosion and sedimentation control practices before
percent calcium carbonate equivalent and 90 percent seedbed preparation, and complete grading according to
will pass through a 10 mesh sieve and 50 percent will the approved plan.
pass through a 60 mesh sieve. Selma chalk should Complete the seedbed preparation, which began with
have a neutralizing value of not less than 80 percent incorporation of soil amendments with tillage as a
calcium carbonate equivalent and 90 percent will pass minimum, that will adequately loosen the soil to a depth
through a 10 mesh sieve. of at least 6 inches. Break up large clods, alleviate
b. Plant Nutrients—Commercial-grade fertilizers that compaction, and smooth and firm the soil into a uniform
Basic Predictions of Soil Losses from a Construction Site 213

surface. Fill in or level depressions that can collect mixture should be applied within one hour after
water. mixing to reduce damage to seed.
Fertilizer should be not be mixed with the seed
7. Planting Methods inoculant mixture because fertilizer salts may damage
a. Seeding—Use certified seed for permanent seeding seed and reduce germination and seedling vigor.
whenever possible. All seed sold in Alabama is Fertilizer may be applied with a hydroseeder as a
required by law to be tagged indicating it has been separate operation after seedlings are established.
inspected, for example. Seed tags contain important Lime is not normally applied with a hydraulic
information on seed purity, germination, and presence seeder because it is abrasive, but if necessary, it can be
of weed seeds. Seed must meet State standards for added to the seed slurry and applied at seeding or it
content of noxious weeds. Do not accept seed may be applied with the fertilizer mixture. Also lime
containing prohibited noxious weed seed. can be blown onto steeper slopes in dry form.
Seeding dates are given in Table 4.26. Seeding c. Sprigging—Hybrid bermudagrass cannot be grown
properly carried out within the optimum dates have a from seed and must be planted vegetatively.
higher probability of success. It is also possible to Vegetative methods of establishing common and
have satisfactory establishment when seeding outside hybrid bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and zoysia
these dates. However, if plantings are conducted include sodding, plugging and sprigging. Sprigs are
outside of the optimum dates, the probability of failure fragments of horizontal stems which include at least
increases rapidly. Seeding dates should be taken into one node (joint). They are normally sold by the bushel
account in scheduling land-disturbing activates. and can either be broadcast or planted in furrows
Inoculate legume seed with the Rhizobium bacteria using a tractor-drawn transplanter.
appropriate to the species of legume. Furrows should be 4–6 inches deep and 2 feet apart.
Plant seed uniformly with a cyclone seeder, drill, Place sprigs about 2 feet apart in the row with one end
cultipacker seeder, or by hand on a fresh, firm, friable at or above ground level.
seedbed. If the seedbed has been sealed by rainfall, it Broadcast sprigs at the specified rate. Press into the
should be disked so the seed will be sown in freshly top 1/2 to 2 inches of soil with a cultipacker or with a
prepared seedbed. disk set nearly straight so that the sprigs are not
When using broadcast-seeding methods, subdivide brought back to the surface. A mulch tacking machine
the area into workable sections and determine the may be used to press sprigs into the soil.
amount of seed needed for each section. Apply 8. Mulching—The use of a mulch will help ensure
one-half the seed while moving back and forth across establishment of vegetation under normal conditions
the area, making a uniform pattern; then apply the and is essential to seeding success under harsh site
second half in the same way, but moving at right conditions. Harsh site conditions include:
angles to the first pass.
• Seeding in late fall (wood fiber mulches are not
Cover broadcast seed by raking or chain dragging;
then firm the surface with a roller or cultipacker to adequate for this use),
• Slopes steeper than 3:1, and
provide good seed contact. Small grains should be
• Adverse soils (shallow, rocky, or high in clay or
planted no more than 1 inch deep and grasses and
legume seed no more than 1/2 inch deep. sand),
b. Hydroseeding—Surface roughening is particularly 9. Irrigation—Moisture is essential for seed germination
important when hydroseeding, as roughened slopes and vegetation establishment. Supplemental irrigation
will provide some natural coverage for lime, fertilizer, can be very helpful in assuring adequate stands in dry
and seed. The surface should not be compacted or seasons or to speed development of full cover. It is a
smooth. Fine seedbed preparation is not necessary for requirement for establishment of vegetation from sprigs
hydroseeding operations; large clods, stones, and and should be used elsewhere when feasible. However,
irregularities provide cavities in which seeds can irrigation is rarely critical for low-maintenance
lodge. vegetation planted at the appropriate time of the year.
Mix seed, inoculant if required, and a seed carrier Water application rates must be carefully controlled to
with water and apply as a slurry uniformly over the prevent runoff. Inadequate or excessive amounts of
area to be treated. The seed carrier should be a water can be more harmful than no supplemental water.
cellulose fiber, natural wood fiber, or cane fiber mulch 10. Maintenance—Generally, a stand of vegetation cannot
material which is dyed an appropriate color to be determined to be fully established until soil cover has
facilitate uniform application of seed. Use the correct been maintained for one full year from planting. Inspect
legume inoculant at four times the recommended rate vegetated areas for failure and make necessary repairs
when adding inoculant to a hydroseeder slurry. The and vegetate as soon as possible.

If stand has inadequate cover, reevaluate choice of plant Purpose

materials and quantities of lime and fertilizer. Re-establish
the stand after seedbed preparation or over-seed the stand. To prevent erosion and damage from sediment and runoff
Consider seeding temporary cover if the time of year is not by stabilizing the soil surface with permanent vegetation; to
appropriate for establishment of permanent vegetation. provide immediate vegetative cover of critical areas; to
If vegetation fails to grow, soil must be tested to determine stabilize disturbed areas with a suitable plant material that
if acidity or nutrient imbalance is responsible. cannot be established by seed; and to stabilize drainage ways
Fertilization—On the typical disturbed site, full and channels and other areas of concentrated flow where
establishment usually requires application of fertilizer in the flow velocities will not exceed that specified for a vegetated
second growing season. Turf grasses require annual waterway.
maintenance fertilization. Use soil tests if possible or follow
the guidelines given for the specific seeding mixtures. Conditions Where Practice Applies
Protect establishing vegetation from traffic that will be
harmful. Use either temporary fences or barriers to protect Disturbed areas which require immediate and permanent
areas that may be damaged by excessive traffic. vegetative cover, or where sodding is preferred to other
means of grass establishment such as waterways or sod
flumes carrying intermittent flow at acceptable velocities,
Sodding areas around drop inlets, and steep critical areas needing
immediately cover.
The following is from the Alabama Handbook (USDA,
2003) and is similar to sodding guidance for temporary Planning Considerations
vegetation that is usually presented in regional erosion
control handbooks. 1. Advantages of properly installed sod include immediate
erosion control, nearly year-round establishment
capability, less chance of failure than with seeding, and
Definition rapid stabilization of surfaces for traffic areas, channel
linings, or critical areas.
Permanently stabilizing areas by laying a continuous 2. Initially, it is more costly to install sod than to plant seed;
cover of grass sod. however, the higher cost may be justified for specific
situations where sod performs better than seed.
3. Sodding for soil stabilization eliminates the seeding and
mulching operations, but the same site preparation is